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Abdullah, Ghani Into Second Round Of Afghan Presidential Vote

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has confirmed that a second-round runoff vote for the Afghan presidency will be held since no candidate won an absolute majority.

IEC head Ahmad Nuristani said on May 15 that the runoff will be between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.

The second round will be held on June 14, with the final results of that vote expected to be announced on July 22.

The final first-round election results showed Abdullah with 45 percent of the vote, trailed by Ghani with 31.6 percent.

Former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasul finished a distant third with 11.4 percent of the vote. He has thrown his support behind Abdullah in the second round.

Eight candidates competed in the April 5 first round to take over the top post from President Hamid Karzai, who is leaving office after serving his second term. He is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

Karzai's successor will inherit an increasingly strong insurgency in Afghanistan that comes as the bulk of foreign forces prepares to leave the country by the end of this year.

Afghan election officials originally hoped to conduct the second round of the presidential election on May 28, but there were delays in tabulating votes and in investigating accusations of election violations.

Nuristani said a Taliban attack on March 29 had destroyed some of the materials needed for a second round and "providing those materials again needs time."

More than 7 million of Afghanistan's 12 million eligible voters cast ballots in the April 5 voting, which was held under tight security after numerous Taliban threats to disrupt the poll.

There were only a few minor incidents of violence on election day.

Afghan officials said the large turnout and relatively peaceful vote had sent a strong message to the Taliban that the Afghan people reject extremist ideologies.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP