'No Winner' Yet in Afghan Election

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There's still no preliminary winner in Afghanistan's presidential vote.

Election officials released just a sliver of new results Saturday, showing President Hamid Karzai with 54 percent and challenger Abdullah Abdullah with 28 percent.

The Independent Election Commission has now released results from 93 percent of polling stations. Five percent of votes have not been counted. The rest have been quarantined for fraud.

The commission had intended to release full preliminary results 10 days ago. But the process has been bogged down by fraud allegations, and officials could still be weeks away from naming a certified winner from the Aug. 20 vote.

If Karzai does not finish with more than 50 percent, he and Abdullah will face off in a run-off.

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan warned Saturday there are "no winners" yet in the country's presidential election, as the Afghan election commission prepared to release full results for the first time.

"There are no winners in this election yet," said Aleem Siddique, a U.N. spokesman.

"Afghanistan's election commission still has to conduct a partial recount from suspect districts. The election commission is also required to annul returns from polling stations where there is clear evidence of irregularities, as ordered by the Electoral Complaints Commission. Only after these actions have been taken can any provisional results be finalized," he said.

Allegations of ballot stuffing and phantom polling stations have marred the Aug. 20 election, threatening Afghanistan's political stability at a time of rising Taliban violence and an increased U.S. military presence.

The country's top vote monitoring group, the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, said in a statement it was "imperative" that Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission — the body overseeing the election — "highlight that the announced results are preliminary" and are subject to decisions by the complaints commission.

The Independent Election Commission, appointed by President Hamid Karzai, scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. Kabul time (1230 GMT; 8:30 a.m. EDT), at which it is expected to release the rest of the preliminary results.

So far the commission has counted ballots from 92 percent of the country's polling stations. Those returns show Karzai with 54 percent of the vote, and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah with 28 percent.

The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission on Thursday threw out thousands of ballots from 83 polling stations and ordered recounts in parts of three Afghan provinces where Karzai would expect to do well.

If enough Karzai votes are ruled invalid, that could push the incumbent's total below 50 percent and force a two-person runoff.

The campaign for Abdullah called Friday for a full investigation of hundreds of reports of fraud.

"The nation has the right to know who got the most votes in every area," said Abdul Satar Murad, Abdullah's campaign chief in Kabul. If that doesn't happen, he said, "the nation and the people will lose their trust in the system."

The complaints commission has the power to order a complete rerun of the election in areas where it deems the results are too tainted to determine the winner, though so far it has not done so.

Decisions by the complaints commission are final under Afghanistan's electoral law. The group — composed of one American, one Canadian, one Dutch, and two Afghans — is releasing decisions from each province as its investigations finish, so more ballots could be invalidated later.

The U.S. special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, has urged patience with the political process and said critics should not judge the presidential contest until the count is finished and all investigations are completed.