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Preliminary results of the Afghanistan presidential election showed that while former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah had the most votes, it wasn't enough to avoid a runoff between the top two candidates.
To win, one of the several candidates needed at least 50 percent of the vote, but Abdullah only got 44.9 percent, according to BBC News. Behind him, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who is a former World Bank economist, got 31.5 percent of the vote. They will now have to go through a runoff election.
The finalized count of votes for the election will be released in the middle of May after officials investigate all fraud complaints, but it is unlikely Abdullah's percentage could increase enough to avoid the runoff.
Election commission chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristan announced, "According to our findings, it seems that this election will go to the second round." The Associated Press reports he added, "We have a tentative schedule of June 7th to start the second round."
Whoever eventually wins the election will become president at a time when the rest of the U.S. and NATO troops are expected to begin pulling out. Abdullah and Ahmadzai had said they wish to fix relations with the West, which soured under current President Hamid Karzai. Both candidates have also said they would sign a security pact with the United States.
The New York Times reports that the elections and preliminary results show a shift within the country, as both candidates have openly said they support stronger ties to the West and the United States, while the elections also appear to be the country's most democratic in a long time.
Although the United States has not publicly supported any candidate, they would likely prefer Abdullah, since he has long advocated for better Western relations and has announced his intent he would move away from Karzai's constant criticism of the United States, saying "This rhetoric has not helped Afghanistan."