The results will not be official until the last ballots are counted from the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan. But UN officials say it already is apparent that Karzai has won a clear mandate to govern the country for the next five years. Because he appears to have won the support of more than half of those who voted, there is likely to be no need for a second-round runoff ballot in November between the two front-runners if no challenges to the balloting are deemed serious enough to overturn the ballot count.
Hamid Elmi, a spokesman for Karzai's election campaign, welcomed yesterday's announcement of the nearly complete results as a victory for the Afghan people.
"From the first day, when people went to the ballot boxes, we were certain about the victory of the people in this election," Elmi said. "We were expecting the Afghan nation to succeed in the first round of this election. When the results appeared, we were certain about Karzai's victory. His victory is a victory for the people. It is the people who gave him their votes."
Elmi said the results are close to the estimates that Karzai's campaign staff had made before the ballot took place.
"Even before the beginning of the official campaign period [in September], we hoped to get between 57 percent and 62 percent of the first round vote. And now, when we hear the results are nearly complete, we are certain about our victory. But we are still waiting for the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body to announce this victory officially," Elmi said.
UN officials on the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) have said that they expect to make their final official announcement around 30 October. Under the Afghan Constitution approved in January, the president would assume his duties 30 days after that proclamation.
But there is one legal loophole remaining that could prevent Karzai's inauguration from taking place in late November or early December. Under the Afghan Electoral Law that was adopted in May, new elections must be held if one of the 16 candidates dies before the final official results are announced.
Meanwhile, 47-year-old former Education Minister Qanuni suggested through a spokesman yesterday that he accepted the victory of Karzai -- but he also wants an ongoing investigation by election officials to clarify details of alleged ballot-box fraud.
According to the results announced yesterday, Qanuni won support from about 16 percent of Afghan voters. That leaves him trailing Karzai by nearly 40 percentage points. A spokesman for Qanuni confirmed after yesterday's announcement that Qanuni will respect the will of the Afghan voters and will not challenge the outcome of the election.
According the tally released yesterday, ethnic Hazara candidate Mohammad Mohaqeq is in third place, with nearly 12 percent of the vote. In fourth place is the ethnic Uzbek militia commander General Abdul Rashid Dostum, with about 10 percent of the vote. The remaining 6 percent of the vote is divided among the other 12 candidates.