Results for the Sept. 28 presidential polls have been repeatedly delayed amid accusations of misconduct and technical problems with counting ballots.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks to journalists after voting at Amani high school, near the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, September 28, 2019.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks to journalists after voting at Amani high school, near the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, September 28, 2019. (AP)

Afghanistan's election commission said the president has won a second term, earning 50.64% in a preliminary vote count announced Sunday, but his opponents can still challenge the result.

Results for the Sept. 28 presidential polls have been repeatedly delayed amid accusations of misconduct and technical problems with counting ballots.

Ashraf Ghani's appears to have beaten out his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah, who serves as the country's chief executive in a fragile national unity government.

The election commission's announcement did not say when the final results will be presented.

It was not immediately clear if the results mean a second round of voting won't be needed. Afghanistan's election laws say that a runoff must take place if no candidate obtains over 50% in the results.

The preliminary results found Ghani won 923,868 votes, 50.64%, while Abdullah won 720,990 votes, according to the head of the Independent Election Commission, Hawa Alam Nuristani. 

She did not give a specific percentage for Abdullah during the press conference in the capital, Kabul, but he appeared to have received 39,52%.

The preliminary vote count was originally set to be announced Oct. 17, and the final tally on Nov. 7.

Abdullah agreed earlier in December to allow a ballot recount in provinces where his supporters had stopped the process for over a month.

The Afghan Election Commission had tried to launch a ballot recount in November but Abdullah halted the attempt, saying he wouldn't let his observers participate.

Thousands of Abdullah's supporters rallied in November in the capital against what they said was the presence of faked ballots amid a controversial recount that seemed set to favour Ghani.

The unity government between Ghani and Abdullah was cobbled together by the United States after Afghanistan's controversial 2014 presidential election. Because of accusations of widespread fraud, no results were announced in that race, and the two leading contenders, Ghani and Abdullah, agreed to share power.

The partnership has been fraught with bickering and rifts.

If the preliminary results hold and Ghani remains president, it will give him the authority he has been seeking to demand a leading role in peace talks with the Taliban.

Until now, he and his government have been sidelined over the last year of direct talks between the US and the Taliban. Washington seeks to withdraw its troops and bring to an end its longest war, ending 18 years of fighting in Afghanistan. 

It's not clear how the Taliban will respond to Ghani's win. Ghani has been demanding a cease fire before engaging in talks, something the Taliban have steadfastly refused.

The Taliban currently control or hold sway over half the country.

Source: AP