Afghan Presidential Candidates Both Say They’re Leading

(Reuters) -

Rival camps in Afghanistan’s presidential race each proclaimed to be leading the contest on Sunday, a day after the run-off was held and as officials were still tallying the hundreds killed or injured in election-related violence.

Observers and other officials in Kabul are worried that both candidates are setting the stage to complain about fraud and refuse to accept defeat should the outcome of the vote be close.

The United Nations on Sunday urged the candidates, former Northern Alliance leader Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, to honor the election procedures, in the tallying of votes.

“The Secretary-General encourages the candidates and their supporters to respect the electoral process,” the U.N. said in a statement.

On Sunday night, Abdullah said he was concerned about “engineered fraud” in the elections and questioned the voter turnout figures of over seven million released by the election commission.

Abdullah, who dropped out of the 2009 run-off against the president, has spent five years in the opposition. His opponent, Ghani, is a former World Bank economist.

Both candidates appeared to set the stage for refusing to accept defeat in an election, likely marred by fraud, when the final results are announced at the end of July.

Ghani didn’t comment on Sunday but his team said after the elections that he was the clear winner.