The Afghan presidential election is heading to a runoff vote June 14 between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, officials said Thursday.
The Afghan Independent Election Commission certified the results of last month’s first-round balloting. Abdullah, a pro-Western leader who advocates closer relations with the United States, collected 45% of the vote and held a sizable lead over Ghani, a former World Bank economist and advisor to President Hamid Karzai, who had 31%.
The results were nearly identical to the preliminary tally that election officials released last month. Because none of the eight presidential contenders garnered a majority, out of 7 million ballots cast, a runoff vote is required under the Afghan constitution.
The second round of campaigning will begin amid escalating threats by the Taliban, which launched a fresh offensive earlier this week that left more than 13 people dead in attacks across the country. The Taliban also vowed to disrupt the first round of voting, on April 5, but were largely deterred by Afghan security forces.
In recent weeks, Abdullah’s campaign has reached out to rival candidates, winning a potentially critical endorsement from longtime Karzai advisor Zalmai Rassoul, who had 11.5% of the vote. Yet the election could still swing in favor of Ghani, who belongs to Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, while Abdullah is more widely identified with the large Tajik minority.
Election officials said that preliminary results of the runoff would be announced July 2.
Baktash is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Bengali reported from Ahmedabad, India.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times