Karzai closer to winning disputed Afghan election
Afghan President Hamid Karzai edged closer to a second term in office Sunday as updated polling results gave him nearly enough votes to...
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai edged closer to a second term in office Sunday as updated polling results gave him nearly enough votes to avoid a runoff election.
His closest challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, has 31.7 percent of the vote, according to results announced Sunday by an Afghanistan election commission.
To gain a first-round victory, Karzai needs 50 percent of the vote, and results reported Sunday put him just more than 1 percentage point away from the needed threshold.
The Afghan election has been marred by allegations of widespread election fraud. A separate election commission is reviewing some 600 high-profile allegations of fraud. The election too is being closely monitored by U.S officials here, while President Obama in Washington reviews Pentagon requests to increase the number of combat troops in Afghanistan.
Separately, officials Sunday threw out the ballots from 447 polling places because they couldn't guarantee their accuracy. Officials did not say how many votes were involved or where the polling places were.
Later this week, the election commission is expected to release a final vote tally. By then, a Karzai supporter predicted, the president would be able to claim more than 50 percent of the vote.
"I am confident that he will win between 51 and 56 percent of the vote," said Moen Marastyal, a parliament member who advises the Karzai campaign.
But Marastyal said Karzai likely would not declare victory until the vote count is formally certified. That could be weeks away as investigators looks into the 600 complaints of ballot-box stuffing, voter intimidation and other misconduct.
The Aug. 20 election was held amid scattered insurgent attacks that at some polling places dramatically reduced turnout.
On Saturday, Abdullah accused Karzai supporters of trying to rig the election, and the commission of colluding in that effort.
NATO said a U.S. service member died Sunday as the result of a bomb blast in southern Afghanistan, the sixth U.S. fatality in as many days in the widening war, according to an Associated Press count. As of Sunday, at least 738 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent Hashim Shukoor contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.
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