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Karzai poised to be Afghanistan's first elected president
Updated: 2004-10-25 20:38

Hamid Karzai was set to become Afghanistan's first elected president after winning historic October 9 polls by a landslide, but a fraud inquiry and a slow final count delayed a formal announcement.

Karzai, 46, has tallied 4,273,444 of an estimated 8.1 million votes cast, according to preliminary results published on the election commission website Monday, with 95.1 percent of votes counted.

With 55.2 percent of the vote, the charismatic Pashtun tribal chief who has led Afghanistan's interim administrations since the Taliban was ousted in late 2001, has the simple majority needed to avoid a second-round runoff.

Karzai, who will serve a five-year term, has been silent on his victory. He chooses to wait until the election commission formally announces the results sometime this week.

But his campaign spokesman Hamid Elmi said on Sunday Karzai had won a simple majority after his vote tally passed four million.

"We have a simple majority. This is exactly what we want," Elmi said.

Karzai's chief rival Yunus Qanooni, who has 16.4 percent of the vote according to the latest tally, also acknowledged Karzai's victory on Sunday.

"We consider Karzai the winner," said Qanooni's spokesman Sayed Hamid Noori.

But Afghans were in limbo a day after Karzai silently clinched outright victory, with a formal announcement not possible until the final 400,000 or so votes have been counted and an international fraud probe has concluded.

"God knows who is the winner. But I hope it's Mr. Karzai," said Kabul high school student Fawad Ahmad.

The vote count slowed Monday as ballots trickled in from eight remaining provinces. Counting has already finished in 26 of the 34 provinces.

The international panel investigating 100 formal complaints began meeting candidates' representatives at 2:30 pm (1000 GMT) at United Nations offices to brief them on the probe.

After talks with the panel, the 14 opposition candidates who threatened to boycott the ballot will hold their own meeting to discuss their response to its findings.

"If the results of the investigation are independent and acceptable, our position is as before: we will accept the results. Otherwise the candidates will meet again and decide on a new stand," Noori told AFP Monday.

Among the complaints being investigated are the apparent failure of indelible ink that was supposed to stain voters' fingers to prevent multiple votes.

The panel originally ordered 90 ballot boxes to be quarantined for investigation. All but 12 of them have been released, an electoral official told AFP.

Another 240 boxes quarantined by electoral staff because of apparent irregularities were still awaiting assessment.


Two high-profile warlords were in third and fourth place.

Mohammad Mohaqeq, of the ethnic Hazara minority, was third with 11.7 percent, followed by Uzbek military strongman Abdul Rashid Dostam with 10.3 percent.

The elections are a crucial step in uniting Afghanistan's disparate ethnic and tribal groups under an elected leader for the first time after decades of occupation, communist rule, civil war, warlords and the Taliban.

Karzai now must battle a rampant opium and heroin trade, warlordism, poverty, illiteracy, and a shattered economy that is propped up by drug money and aid dollars.

He must also expand an undersized army and police force and persuade 40,000 militiamen to give up their weapons.

Afghans earn an average of 300 dollars per year, according to a recent World Bank survey. Around 86 percent of its estimated 28 million people cannot read or write.

Analysts said Karzai will have an uphill battle trying to end the power of warlords.

One of his two vice presidents, Karim Khalili, is a warlord from the Hazara minority. The other, Ahmed Zia Masood, is the brother of revered anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Masood.

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