Karzai, Abdullah claim victory, Holbrooke says Afghan poll result will be disputed
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President Hamid Karzai's campaign and chief rival Abdullah Abdullah both said on Friday they had won Afghanistan's election, with US officials warning the candidates to keep a lid on simmering tensions.
Both camps said unofficial counts by campaign workers showed they had won enough votes from Thursday's election, which went ahead despite Taliban threats of violence, to avoid a potentially destabilising second round of voting in October.
The election is a major test for Karzai after eight years in power as well as for US President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the Taliban.
Karzai's campaign manager Deen Mohammad said early results showed Karzai had won a majority. "We will not get to a second round," he said.
Abdullah, Karzai's former Foreign Minister, dismissed the Karzai camp's victory claim and said he was on track to win in the first round after Thursday's vote, which went ahead despite sporadic Taliban violence.
"I'm ahead. Initial results from the provinces show that I have more than 50 per cent of the vote," he claimed.
Official preliminary results are not due for two weeks.
Election observers say a second round between Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, and Abdullah, who draws support from Tajiks in the north, risked dividing the country along ethnic lines, and that disagreement over the outcome could lead to civil unrest.
US envoy Richard Holbrooke said he was sure the outcome of Thursday's vote would be disputed and told candidates to keep a lid on tensions.
"We always knew it would be a disputed election. I would not be surprised if you see candidates claiming victory and fraud in the next few days," said Holbrooke, who met Karzai and Abdullah in Kabul on Friday.
Abdullah urged "calmness, patience, a sense of responsibility" from his supporters. "Violence should be avoided in any circumstances," he said at his home in Kabul.
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