Afghan election heads for June runoff

Updated 2:58 PM EDT, Sat April 26, 2014

Story highlights

Afghanistan's presidential election will go to a second round

Electoral commission says final results will be released May 14

It will be the country's first democratic transfer of presidential power

(CNN) —  

Afghanistan’s presidential election will go to a second round after no one candidate garnered more than 50% of the vote, the country’s election commission said Saturday.

The top two vote-getters, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, will be in a runoff slated for June 7, said Independent Election Commission head Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani.

“I think the elections went pretty good, we are satisfied with it and with the results,” Nuristani said on state television.

Seven million Afghans went to the polls on April 5 to choose a successor to outgoing President Hamid Karzai. It will be the country’s first democratic transfer of presidential power.

The preliminary results were announced Saturday, showing Abdullah with 45% of the votes and Ghani with 32%. Zalmai Rasoul’s presidential hopes ended with a third place finish with 12% of the vote.

Abdullah and Ghani were seen as the front-runners going into the April 5 ballot.

Abdullah, who is associated with the Tajik ethnic group, is partnered with Mohammad Mohaqeq, a leader of the Hazara ethnic group. He also has a Pashtun on the ticket.

An eye doctor by training, Abdullah became Afghanistan’s foreign minister under Karzai. He ran against him in 2009 but dropped out to protest what he saw as large-scale voter fraud.

He is considered to be relatively liberal and has made at least one public statement in support of women’s rights.

Ghani, who earned his doctorate at Columbia University in the United States, is from the Pashtun ethnic group. His running mate is Abdul Rashid Dostum, a leader of the Uzbek ethnic group.

Ghani was the country’s finance minister under Karzai.

Security will be a key issue for whoever is elected president.

A series of deadly attacks marked the run-up to the vote, and Kabul was again rocked by violence Thursday when at least three American medical workers in the capital were shot by a policeman guarding a hospital.

NATO troops are scheduled to draw down from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Karzai, who is constitutionally required to step down after two terms in office, has refused to sign an agreement to keep international forces in Afghanistan, also known as the Status of Forces Agreement.

But the two leading presidential candidates have said they would sign it.