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Published: Sunday, 5/11/2014

Front-runner receives key endorsement

3rd-place candidate favors Abdullah for runoff vote

NEW YORK TIMES
Abdullah Abdullah, the front-runner in Afghanistan’s presidential election campaign, announced Sunday that he has received the endorsement of Zalmai Rassoul, the third-place candidate, as part of his effort to gather enough votes to win in the next round of voting. Abdullah Abdullah, the front-runner in Afghanistan’s presidential election campaign, announced Sunday that he has received the endorsement of Zalmai Rassoul, the third-place candidate, as part of his effort to gather enough votes to win in the next round of voting.
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KABUL, Afghanistan — Abdullah Abdullah, the front-runner in Afghanistan’s presidential election campaign, announced today that he has received the endorsement of Zalmai Rassoul, the third-place candidate, as part of his effort to gather enough votes to win in the next round of voting.

Together the two men received about 55 percent of the vote in the first round of voting April 5. There is no guarantee that voters will vote the same way in a second round, tentatively set for June 14.

Mr. Abdullah’s camp and some analysts worry that a runoff could be rife with fraud and that there is more risk that it could be disrupted by the Taliban.

The insurgents’ campaign of violence failed to have much effect in the first round, but the Taliban could redouble their efforts to intimidate voters in the runoff.

Mr. Abdullah won nearly 44 percent of the vote in the first round, followed by Ashraf Ghani with nearly 33 percent and Mr. Rassoul with 11 percent, according to the most recent count by the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan.

The final results for the first round are expected later this week, according to the election commission.

Mr. Ghani, who came in second, has repeatedly said that there needs to be a runoff as mandated by the constitution.

Some commentators believe that a second round of voting would split along more ethnic lines, which could benefit Mr. Ghani, a Pashtun, since Pashtuns represent a plurality of the population.

Mr. Abdullah is most closely associated with the Tajik ethnic group and the former Northern Alliance of commanders that helped overthrow the Taliban in 2001.

While both candidates have tickets that include two vice presidents, each representing other ethnic groups, it is the top of the ticket that gets the most attention when it comes to factional affiliation.

Mr. Rassoul was believed to be the favored candidate of President Hamid Karzai, but Mr. Karzai was careful not to endorse anyone and kept a low profile during the campaign.

During a news conference in Kabul, Mr. Rassoul described Mr. Abdullah as “a good colleague” whom he had known for a long time and worked well with.

The outcome of the first round surprised many Afghans because Mr. Abdullah received votes from across the country, even in heavily Pashtun areas.

Overall, the election garnered more interest from voters than the previous presidential contest in 2009, with 50 percent more votes cast, and it was viewed as generally less fraud-ridden.



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