Ashraf Ghani has won a second term as president of Afghanistan, the country’s independent election commission announced Tuesday, more than four months after polls closed.
The commission said Ghani garnered 923,592 votes, or 50.64 percent, in the election that took place last September 28. Challenger and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah received 720,841 votes, or 39.52 percent.
Election results were repeatedly delayed amid accusations of misconduct and technical problems with counting ballots. The final vote tally was originally to be announced November 7.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, head of the election commission, had said previously that 1.8 million Afghan citizens voted in the election out of some 9.6 million eligible.
The election commission tried to launch a ballot recount in November but Abdullah halted the attempt, saying he wouldn’t let his observers participate. Thousands of his supporters rallied against what they said were fake ballots. The controversial recount had seemed set to favor Ghani.
Abdullah in December agreed to allow a ballot recount in provinces where his supporters had stopped the process.
Ghani and Abdullah head a fragile national unity government that was put together under U.S. pressure after both leaders claimed victory in Afghanistan’s last elections in 2014.
Tuesday’s election results come days after U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced a truce agreement between the United States and the Taliban that could lead to the withdrawal of American troops from the country.
Ghani first ran for president in 2009, capturing barely a quarter of the votes. He ran again in 2014 in what was considered a deeply flawed and corrupt exercise.
Ghani, from central Logar Province was born May 19, 1949. He holds a doctorate in Anthropology from Columbia University and first went to the United States as a high school exchange student.
Except for a brief teaching stint at Kabul University in the early 1970s, Ghani lived in the United States, where he was an academic until joining the World Bank as a senior adviser in 1991.
He returned to Afghanistan after 24 years when the Taliban were ousted by the U.S.-led coalition. Ghani was head of Kabul University until he joined President Hamid Karzai’s government as finance minister. In 2010 he led the lengthy process to transfer security of the country from U.S.-led coalition forces to the Afghanistan National Security Forces, which took effect in 2014.
By Tameem Akhgar and Rahim Faiez for The Associated Press.