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Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, chairman of the Independent Election Commission, center, speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. / Rahmat Gul, AP

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Partial results released Sunday in Afghanistan's crucial presidential election show a tight race between ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, with 41.9% of the vote, and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, with 37.6%.

While the numbers were based on less than 10% of the 7 million ballots cast in the April 5 election, the early results appeared to narrow the wide field to two main contenders, who could face off in a second round of voting if neither gains a majority. In third place with 9.8% of the vote was Zalmai Rassoul, another former foreign minister who was considered a favorite of outgoing President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from a third term.

The chairman of the Independent Election Commission, Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, warned that the results could change in future with so few votes counted.

"Maybe today one candidate looks strong. Tomorrow, maybe another will pull ahead," he said.

Full preliminary results of the election are due April 24, with final results to be declared in May once complaints of fraud are fully investigated.

The man who replaces Karzai, the only president Afghans have known for a decade, faces a huge task in fighting the Taliban insurgents and overseeing the withdrawal of the last foreign combat troops 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple the Talbian's radical Islamic rule.

The new president is also likely to sign a security agreement with the United States that would allow thousands of foreign troops to remain in the country to continue training security forces after 2014. Karzai - perhaps trying to shake off his image as a creation of the Americans - has refused to sign it, further chilling relations with Washington.

The election was held amid threats of violence by insurgents, who launched dozens of attacks in the run-up to the polls but largely failed to tamp down turnout.

The Taliban rejected Sunday's partial results.

"These elections and their results are not legitimate. The country is occupied and there is fighting in the big cities. The winner and the loser are both criminals," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said.

The results released Sunday are for 10% of the vote in 26 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. They represent a little over 500,000 ballots, Nouristani said.

Abdullah, who came in second to Karzai in the disputed 2009 election, had 212,312 votes. Ghani had 190,561 and Rassoul trailed with 49,821 votes. Numbers for the other five candidates were not announced.

Nearly 1,900 complaints of fraud have been filed, but the number is lower than that of the last election, an official said Sunday.

Each allegation will be scrutinized so that there would be no question of the outcome of the April 5 vote, said Mohammed Nadir Mohseni, the spokesman of the complaints committee of the Independent Elections Commission.

Mohseni said a total of 1,892 complaints were filed from among the 6,218 polling centers that opened on election day. Of the complaints under investigation, 870 are serious enough to potentially affect results.

It was unclear if the majority of the alleged fraud favored one candidate or another, but Mohseni said the number of complaints was lower than in the 2009 election.

Widespread allegations of fraud marred the 2009 vote and led to a third of the ballots for Karzai being disqualified, depriving him of the majority needed to avoid a runoff. His nearest rival, Abdullah, quit before a second round could be held, saying he did not believe it would be fair either.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read the original story: Partial results show tight race in Afghan election

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