By Vincent Bevins and agencies
Counting has begun in Afghanistan amid further evidence that turnout was uneven and claims of fraud may need to be investigated.
Election officials have confirmed earlier reports that turnout was low, especially in the south, where incumbent Hamid Karzai’s support is stronger. AP reported that voting in Kandahar, the south’s largest city and the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace, appeared to be 40% lower than in 2004. Abdullah Abdullah, who is more popular with the Tajik communities in the North, may benefit enough from this imbalance to force a run-off.
Scattered violence and clear threats of violence closed at least 800 poll stations (12% of total) and kept many voters from those that were open.
The Guardian reported that Ashraf Ghani, another presidential candidate, acknowledged widespread claims of fraud and hoped they could be resolved through official channels.
Barring hold-ups, some preliminary results may be released as early as Saturday and the final results should be announced 17 September.