Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) formally released the results of the April 5 presidential elections on Thursday. The IEC’s announcement confirmed earlier trends, placing Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister, in first place with 45 percent of all votes, followed by Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai with 31.6 percent of all votes. Seeing as neither candidate reached the absolute majority required to win the presidential elections under the Afghan constitution, a run-off vote will be held on June 14 to determine which of the two will emerge as Afghanistan’s next president.
According to Pajhwok, the delay in announcing the official election results was due to widespread supply problems in polling sites across 58 districts. Yousuf Nuristani, the IEC Chairman, noted that votes from 918 polling sites were cancelled due to fraud and vote-rigging. A total of 6,604,546 votes were cast according to Nuristani — 64 percent by men and 36 percent by women.
As for the two candidates, a second round of campaigning will begin on May 22, lasting until June 11. As of now, Abdullah Abdullah is in a strong position, having recently acquired the endorsement of the third-place candidate in the elections, Zalmai Rassoul, as well as the support of Gul Agha Sherzai — a smaller candidate who drew only 1 percent of the vote in the elections but who has a strong support base in the Pashtun-dominated southern province of Kandahar.
Ghani is counting on drawing more of the Pashtun vote during the run-off elections. Abdullah is of mixed parentage, being part Tajik and part Pashtun (though he is widely perceived as a Tajik candidate). With Rassoul and Sherzai’s support, Abdullah will likely manage to draw the necessary votes from the Pashtun community to win the run-off.
Ghani and Abdullah face additional uncertainties. Run-off elections almost never draw the same sort of turnout as the initial round. Should fewer voters supporting Abdullah turn out in the runoff, Ghani may win a greater proportion of the total compared to the first round. It is likely that turnout will be considerably lower as the Taliban recently announced and launched its “Spring Offensive.” Facing an uncertain security situation, voters will be likely to stay home during the June run-off election.
Given these security concerns, analysts and observers both in Afghanistan and abroad have urged Ghani to compromise with Abdullah to prevent the necessity of a run-off vote. In 2009, Abdullah compromised with Hamid Karzai to prevent a run-off round that could have been destabilizing. Both Rassoul and Sherzai stated that they were supporting Abdullah in the interest of national unity.