After days of confusion and claims of outright victory by each of the top two contenders in the August 20 presidential election, the Afghan election authorities have announced the first partial results.
At a late afternoon press conference in Kabul, Daud Ali Najafi, a senior official of the Independent Election Commission, said that, with 10 percent of the vote counted, President Hamid Karzai has polled 40.6 percent to former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah's 38.9 percent.
What this means is that neither incumbent Karzai nor challenger Abdullah appears headed for a first-round victory, which requires an outright majority of 50 percent.
Najafi said that the results were from 525,000 votes at nearly 2,700 polling stations in 21 of the country's 34 provinces. Partial results are expected to trickle in until full preliminary results are announced on September 3. Official final results are expected on September 17.
After both Karzai and Abdullah claimed within a day of the August 20 vote that they were headed for first-round victories with more than 60 percent of the vote, Najafi warned candidates, media, and observers against reporting speculative results.
The aftermath of the elections has been marred by conflicting claims of victory and fraud. Aside from the two top candidates each claiming victory, Abdullah has accused Karzai of massive vote-rigging and other candidates have also made accusations of fraud.
The process has received mixed reviews from foreign and domestic observers. The low turnout of women because of violence fears is a universal concern.
According to the Free and Fair Foundation of Afghanistan, the largest Afghan observer group, some 650 polling stations for women planned for the segregated vote did not open on election day. Anecdotal accounts suggest proxy voting, ballot-box stuffing, and election workers backing individual candidates.
Taliban threats, in particular, appear to have deprived many in the Pashtun south and east from voting.
In its preliminary statement, however, the European Union observer mission called first Afghan-led election "largely positive." Western leaders also hailed the elections a success, considering the atmosphere of threats and attacks.
Independent Election Commission spokesman Nur Mohammad Nur told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that given the scale of the election exercise, the more than 200 formal complaints handed to the Electoral Complaints Commission is a small number and will be addressed according to the law.
"I emphasize that the elections were conducted nicely and the Independent Election Commission has been able to hold elections in a good atmosphere across the country," Nur said.
"This was not an easy task and these elections were not conducted under normal circumstances, as many of our workers sacrificed their lives [to make this successful]."
UN special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide has called for patience while the Electoral Complaints Commission investigates complaints about the vote.
RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Norias Nori contributed reporting