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Poll Shows Afghan Vote Headed For Second Round

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.