The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan said the front-runner in the race, Abdullah Abdullah, won 45 percent of the vote in the first round, with Ashraf Ghani second at 31.6 percent; they will contest the runoff. Karzai’s handpicked candidate Zalmay Rassoul, his foreign minister, failed badly; receiving only 11% of the vote.
Both remaining candidates have said they will sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the United States. The agreement was negotiated last year and approved by a Loya Jirga organized by Karzai, but he has refused to sign it before he leaves office.
The Iranians have strongly supported Abdullah’s candidacy despite his commitment to sign the BSA. Ghani will use the Iranian support against Abdullah, arguing that the support will make Abdullah beholden to Iranian interests.
File photo: Abdullah Abdullah (l) and Ashraf Ghani (AFP)