Preliminary Results Show Ghani Winning Afghan Presidency

Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani had about a million more votes than Abdullah Abdullah, who had been considered the front-runner. Abdullah has charged massive fraud in the election.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Preliminary results are out for the run-off in Afghanistan's presidential elections. And the winner seems to be former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani. His opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, was considered the front-runner after winning 45 percent of the vote in the first round back in April. Now Ashraf Ghani appears to be winning with almost a million more votes than Abdullah. NPR's Sean Carberry joins us from Kabul. Good morning.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Hi. And there's a little bit of a delay here. But, Sean, let's be clear, the original front-runner, Abdullah Abdullah, he's been charging massive fraud in this run-off ever since the polls closed. And these number are preliminary, in other words, there are still fraudulent votes to be thrown out, according to the process there. So what's going on here?

CARBERRY: Well, you're right, Abdullah says there is at least 2 million votes to be thrown out. And the election commission, when they announce the results tonight, said that they had only thrown out 11,000 votes because of potential fraud. And they say now it's the job of the electoral complaint's commission to evaluate the larger claims. And one of the things that did strike people with the announcement this evening here was that 8 million votes were cast in this election, and that's far more than even the initial estimates that had been going around for weeks, estimates that Abdullah already thought were too high and were a sign of fraud. So the numbers here are not a surprise in that Ghani did come out the winner. Abdullah has been expecting that. Ghani has been expecting that. Based on unofficial results, the turnout is high, but again, as you say, there's still a huge question about how much fraud there is to get rid of from this vote count.

MONTAGNE: Well, to make a comparison - 8 million votes - there were only 7 million in the original election, and that was considered an astonishingly high number. And in some of the provinces considered to be pro-Ghani, they're showing, like, triple the number of votes. So, you know, Abdullah Abdullah has been rejecting these results all along, even before they came out - what's his argument?

CARBERRY: Well, as you say, he's saying that there are places that are pro-Ghani that doubled, tripled, quadrupled, the vote count between the first round and second round, which he says are clearly signs of fraud. He's released audio tapes and video recordings alleged to be election officials who are making phone calls discussing fraud plans to stuff ballots for Ghani. And European Union election monitors have weighed in on this, and they say as many as 25 percent of the ballot boxes have to be audited for potential fraud for this to be a legitimate outcome and to be accepted by the Afghan people as well as the international community. So Abdullah is basically demanding that this audit happen, that these ballot boxes are cleared out of potential fraud, at which point he would be willing to accept whatever the outcome may be.

MONTAGNE: And just to be fair, also his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, the possible winner, has said that he's just got out the vote this time.

CARBERRY: Right, absolutely. He's been saying that he ran a much more effective mobilization campaign between the two rounds. That he reached out to religious leaders who called on women to come out and vote. That he did a transportation program to get people to the polls. That he did more media outreach, basically saying, across the board, he did a better job of getting out the vote. Again, Abdullah has questioned this all along, and we'll see what the results finally come out later this month.

MONTAGNE: All right, well, lots more to come. Thanks very much. NPR's Sean Carberry, speaking to us from Kabul. And you are listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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