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Karzai secures his Afghan leadership

Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai has won the majority of votes in the Oct. 9 election, results posted Sunday on the election commission's Web site show, effectively securing his position as Afghanistan's first popularly elected president.

Karzai, who had been widely expected to win, received more than 4.2 million votes — more than half of the estimated ballots cast. Under the election rules, any of the 18 candidates must receive 50 percent plus one vote to win, avoiding the necessity of a runoff. The presidential term is five years.

The official, final tally is not due until Oct. 30.

Results posted on the Internet by the Joint Electoral Management Board, an Afghan and U.N. election commission, showed Karzai way ahead by Sunday evening, with 94 percent of the votes counted.

He had 55.3 percent of the vote. His nearest rival, the former education minister, Muhammad Yunus Qanooni, had 16.2 percent.

Among the other candidates, the Hazara Shia leader, Muhammad Mohaqeq, received 11.8 percent, and the Uzbek general, Abdul Rashid Dostum had 10.3 percent. The only woman presidential candidate, Masooda Jalal, was running sixth, with 80,922 votes, or 1.1 percent. Nonetheless, her showing was a landmark for a woman in Afghan politics.

While the two-week counting process was near an end, ballots from the most remote province, Badakhshan, and the two other regions representing Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, were still to be counted.

The election was widely regarded as remarkably peaceful, despite incidents of violence and threats from insurgents loyal to the ousted Taliban rule. Election observers from the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who fielded barely 122 international observers around the country, have described the election as an "orderly and transparent process."

Karzai's main rivals declined to comment on the results until all the votes were counted and results of an investigation into irregularities by an international panel of experts is presented Monday.

Karzai's victory is not the landslide that he and his Western backers had hoped for. He found overwhelming approval among his fellow ethnic Pashtuns in the south and east, winning 90 percent of the vote in some of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Yet he has made a poor showing in much of the north, where voters tended to vote according to their ethnic group, supporting the main Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara candidates.