Afghan election results: Abdullah lead grows


In what must be one of the world’s slowest vote-counting exercises, most of the results of Afghanistan’s April 5 election have now been tallied, and frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah’s lead is growing in his bid to succeed outgoing president Hamid Karzai.afghanistan flag

With around 82% of the votes now counted, Abdullah leads with 43.8%, followed by Ashram Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank official and finance minister, who is winning 32.9%. Zalmai Rassoul, until recently Karzai’s foreign minister, was in third place with 11.1%.

Though Abdullah’s lead has grown steadily throughout the vote count, he won’t achieve the absolute majority he would otherwise need to avoid a runoff against Ghani, which would take place after May 28 — likely in June. 

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RELATED: Afghanistan hopes for calm as key presidential election approaches

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A report in The New York Times over the weekend indicated, however, that Abdullah (pictured above with Karzai in 2004) is already on the verge of winning Rassoul’s support, which could power Abdullah to a convincing runoff victory against Ghani by bringing southern Pashtun tribes close to Karzai into his ethnic and political coalition. Though the outgoing president hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the race, Rassoul is widely seen as the candidate of the Karzai administration, and Karzai’s brother, Quayum Karzai, dropped out of the race in March and endorsed Rassoul. 

In the meanwhile, despite some horrific violence in the weeks leading up to the election, the Taliban, which is boycotting the vote, has been remarkably quiet, notwithstanding expectations that it would be working hard to undermine safety during the election campaign. Some analysts believe that the Taliban is waiting until the runoff vote to achieve maximum disruption, but the lull might actually mean that Abdullah and Ghani and their supporters are negotiating behind the scenes with key Taliban leaders. 

So what does this mean for Afghanistan — and for the US military presence there? Continue reading Afghan election results: Abdullah lead grows

Macedonian election results: double victory for ruling VMRO-DPMNE


It wasn’t a surprise, but Macedonia’s conservative president Gjorge Ivanov (pictured above) won reelection to a second four-year term in Sunday’s elections, and its conservative prime minister Nikola Gruevski won a fourth consecutive term, with his ruling party making minor gains in the Macedonian parliament that they’ve controlled since 2006.macedonia

Gruevski’s ruling VMRO-DPMNE (Внатрешна македонска револуционерна организација – Демократска партија за македонско национално единство; Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity) actually improved their total from 56 seats to 61 seats, nearly a majority in the 123-seat Собрание (Sobranie), the country’s unicameral assembly.

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RELATED: Macedonian right seems headed for fourth consecutive win 

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Despite a high-profile call to boycott the presidential vote in the first round by the country’s ethnic Albanians, an issue that initially brought the government down when

Gruevski’s junior coalition partner, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI, Bashkimi Demokratik për Integrim), brought the government down earlier this spring over the issue of Ivanov’s reelection. Despite a high-profile call to boycott the presidential vote in the first round by the country’s ethnic Albanians, the DUI also improved its standing from 15 to 19 seats, and it will likely resume its place in government.

The opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM, Социјалдемократски сојуз на Македонија) lost ground, dropping eight seats to just 34.  Continue reading Macedonian election results: double victory for ruling VMRO-DPMNE