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Associated Press
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, left, and Afghan presidential candidate Zalmai Rassoul, right, listen during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

Afghan presidential election goes to 2nd round

– Afghanistan’s election commission announced on Thursday that the country’s presidential election is going into second round, with the two top vote getters to face off on June 14.

The race will likely be tight between the two contenders, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

The second round will coincide with the height of the Taliban spring offensive that was launched earlier this week. The insurgency has renewed its campaign of attacks on the Afghan police and military – increasing fears over security when voters head to the polls.

The Taliban have pledged to disrupt the vote with bombings and other attacks, although the first round on April 5 was relatively free of violence.

Abdullah garnered 45 percent of votes in the first round while Ahmadzai came in second with 31.6 percent, Independent Election Commission Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristan said.

The final results announced by Nouristan were almost exactly the same as the preliminary results released late last month. The runoff will take place June 14, Nouristan said.

Earlier this week, Abdullah picked up a potential election-tipping endorsement in Zalmai Rassoul, an ex-foreign minister who took 11.5 percent in the first round.

But it’s unclear whether Rassoul can deliver the votes of his supporters, who are largely Pashtuns, the country’s largest ethnic group.

International attention is also focused on whether the new president will sign a deal already negotiated by outgoing President Hamid Karzai to allow some U.S. forces to stay in Afghanistan after the end of the year.

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