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Poll Shows Afghan Vote Headed For Second Round

In the poll, Karzai would receive 44 percent of the vote

In the poll, Karzai would receive 44 percent of the vote

KABUL (Reuters) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai leads in the country's presidential race, but not by enough to win an outright majority in the August 20 election and avoid a second round, a poll released on August 14 shows.

The poll, by the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute, showed Karzai winning 44 percent of the vote, with his main challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, winning 26 percent.

Ramazan Bashardost, a former planning minister and member of the Hazara ethnic minority whose office is in a tent opposite parliament, would place third with 10 percent of the vote, while former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani wins 6 percent.

The survey of 2,400 Afghan adults was carried out from July 16-26. Its results are broadly in line with another poll earlier this week by a different U.S.-funded organization.

Karzai, who has run Afghanistan since Taliban militants were ousted from power in 2001, easily won Afghanistan's first democratic presidential election in 2004, but faces a stronger challenge this year from Abdullah.

Abdullah, an eye doctor whose mother was an ethnic Tajik from the north and father was, like Karzai, a Pashtun from the south, has roots in a northern, mainly Tajik guerrilla movement but is seeking to broaden his base to attract southern voters.