President Hamid Karzai and top challenger Abdullah Abdullah have roughly 40 per cent of the nationwide vote for President with 10 per cent of ballots counted, the country’s Election Commission said on Tuesday.

The Commission said Mr. Karzai has 40.6 per cent and Abdullah has 38.7 per cent in the country’s first official returns since the nation voted for President on last Thursday.

The early returns are based on only 10 per cent of the country’s ballots. However, the final, certified results won’t be made public until mid or late September.

The commission said it had based the count on 524,000 valid votes after throwing out about 31,000. Less than two per cent of Kandahar votes have been counted, and no votes in Helmand have been counted, the commission said. Mr. Karzai would expect to do well in both provinces, suggesting his returns could go higher.

If neither Mr. Karzai or Mr. Abdullah gets more than 50 per cent of the votes, the two will face each other again in a run-off.

Mr. Karzai supporters have already said that the President won close to 70 per cent of the vote, but Mr. Abdullah has alleged that massive fraud has been carried out in favor of the President.

“If the widespread rigging is ignored this is the type of regime that will be imposed upon Afghanistan for the next five years, a system that has destroyed every institution, broken every law,” Mr. Abdullah said at a news conference just before the results were announced.

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