Afghan Election Numbers Come With A Warning: Results Not Final

More than three weeks after a runoff vote in Afghanistan's presidential elections, preliminary results have been released. Candidate Ashraf Ghani has a wide lead, but audits are yet to come.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. Today, Afghans are one step closer to knowing who their next president will be. More than three weeks after voters went to the polls, election officials announced that candidate Ashraf Ghani has a wide lead. But Ghani is not out of the woods yet. The election process now enters an appeals phase that is sure to be contentious before the final results are announced on July 24. NPR's Sean Carberry sent this story from Kabul.

SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Almost a week behind schedule and then the nearly five hours after the press conference was supposed to start, Afghanistan's election commission read out the results.

(SOUNDBITE FROM PRESS CONFERENCE)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: (Foreign language spoken).

CARBERRY: For Ashraf Ghani, 4,486,000 votes. Abdullah Abdullah, 3,461,000. More than a million vote difference. But election chairman Yousuf Nuristani was quick to caution both candidates and their supporters to remain peaceful and patient.

YOUSUF NURISTANI: (Through translator) I want to emphasize that the announcement of the preliminary result doesn't necessarily mean the declaration of the winner.

CARBERRY: Nuristani says there was widespread fraud and after investigation and auditing the results could change. Abdullah believes they will.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH: We are honored to claim that we have majority of votes in Afghanistan, which are clean.

CARBERRY: Abdullah lead Ghani by 14 points in the first round of the election and is alleged for weeks that the runoff was rigged against him. He's accused President Hamid Karzai of directing election officials to stuff ballot boxes in Ghani's favor. But Ghani says he simply ran a better campaign and turned out more voters. Abdullah, though, sees that as evidence of fraud, which is why he said he would not recognize the preliminary result in less all the fraud was eliminated first. Abdullah campaign official Fazel Sanchar-aki says, the announcement of the preliminary results is a coup against Abdullah. Today's press conference was late because the Abdullah and Ghani teams were negotiating an audit of seven thousand ballot boxes. They have yet to come to an agreement but the international community has made clear the results will not be legitimate without a thorough review. State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

JEN PSAKI: There are serious allegations of fraud there. And they've been raised and in our view they haven't been sufficiently investigated.

CARBERRY: Afghanistan's electoral complaints commission is now tasked with sorting out the fraudulent votes. Invitations have already gone out for the August second inauguration ceremony. Sean Carberry. NPR News, Kabul.

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