The front-runners for Afghanistan's presidency, incumbent Ashraf Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, have both declared victory, echoing an election crisis five years ago when competing claims by the two men led to months of turmoil. Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission has gathered votes from Saturday's election. If no candidate wins more than half, a runoff vote would be held between the top two.
"Our votes are the highest in the election, and the election will not go to the second round," Abdullah said at a press conference in Kabul yesterday. Ghani's running mate Amrullah Saleh said on Sunday that Ghani had won a clear first-ballot victory, without offering evidence.
Ghani and Abdullah were also the top two candidates in the last election in 2014, leading to months of turmoil as both men accused each other of fraud. The U.S. stepped in, brokering a power-sharing deal under which Ghani became president and Abdullah accepted the new post of chief executive. Abdullah was also involved in a months-long election dispute in 2009 when he challenged the victory of then-incumbent Hamid Karzai. Afghan presidential candidates have a pattern of assembling competing coalitions of regional and ethnic chieftains, and accusing rival camps of organizing fraud in far-flung districts under the control of their supporters. The chief executive of the electoral commission, Habiburrahman Nang, told a press conference that no candidate had the right to declare himself the winner before the results are tallied. Preliminary results are not expected before Oct. 19 and final results not until Nov. 7.