Afghan preliminary election results expected

A worker for the Afghan election commission office unloads ballot boxes in Herat Province (20 April 2014) Turnout was high, despite poor weather and threats of violence from the Taliban

Preliminary results from Afghanistan's presidential election are due to be announced, three weeks after the vote was held.

Earlier partial results put former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah ahead with 43.8% of votes cast, short of the 50% needed to avoid a run-off.

The BBC's David Loyn in Kabul says there are increasing claims of fraud.

Final official results are due to be announced on 14 May after a period for adjudication of complaints.

Incumbent President Hamid Karzai is barred from standing for a third term. Eight candidates are vying to succeed him.

If none gains more than 50%, a second round between the two frontrunners is scheduled for 28 May.

Saturday's announcement will come two days after full preliminary results were expected to have been declared.

Abdullah Abdullah. 24 April 2014 Abdullah Abdullah is believed to be the frontrunner
Ashraf Ghani. 21 April 2014 Ashraf Ghani is a former Afghan finance minister

Our correspondent says the continuing delay is increasing suspicion that the result is being manipulated.

There are allegations on all sides that ballot boxes were stuffed and that the count itself was rigged, he says.

When 80% of votes were counted, Mr Abdullah's main rival Ashraf Ghani - a former World Bank economist - was in second place with 32.9% of the vote.

A second-round vote could be avoided if a power-sharing deal is struck between the two leading candidates.

However, both men have vowed to fight on if a run-off is required.

"We have not talked or negotiated with anyone about forming a coalition government," Mr Abdullah told reporters after Thursday's results.

Millions of Afghans defied Taliban threats to take part in the election.

Turnout was double that of the previous presidential election in 2009, despite a number of attacks in the run-up and bad weather on polling day.

The next president will face several challenging issues, including the expected withdrawal of foreign combat troops from Afghanistan later this year and attacks by the Taliban.

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