The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, won last month's presidential election outright in the first round, election officials said yesterday, but the EU said more than a third of his votes might be suspect because of fraud.
Afghan election authorities issued complete preliminary results showing Mr Karzai received 54.6 per cent of the vote. His main challenger, the former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, got 27.8 per cent. The results are not final until approved by a separate election fraud watchdog, which has called for a recount of 10 per cent of polling stations.
A final result pending the fraud inquiry could be weeks away, prolonging a state of political limbo that has led to fears of instability and concern among Western donors that a future government may lack a clear mandate.
A EU election observer mission said it believed as many as 1.5 million votes – including 1.1 million cast for Mr Karzai – were "suspicious". "Any claim for any count or of victory will be premature and not credible," said the head of the mission, Phillipe Morillon. Mr Karzai's campaign called the statement "irresponsible". Fraud accusations have been especially heavy in southern areas that favour Mr Karzai but where Taliban influence held, threats had the worst impact on turnout.