Afghanistan poll results expected in coming days: official

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has ended his boycott of a recount

Preliminary results from Afghanistan's delayed presidential polls will be announced in the coming days, an election official said Thursday, after a main candidate ended his boycott of a recount.

The country has been stuck in political limbo since the vote, with the two top candidates -- President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah -- locked in a close race.

Independent Election Commission (IEC) spokesman Zabih Sadat told AFP the key recount and audit of votes from the September 28 election had been completed in all but one province.

"The recount in one remaining province will be completed today," Sadat said.

"Then we will gather data and announce the preliminary results to the public early next week."

In Afghanistan, Saturdays mark the start of the week.

The result was originally due on October 19 but was repeatedly delayed amid technical issues, as well as fraud allegations from Abdullah's team.

Abdullah last month withdrew his team's election observers from an official recount.

His supporters then blocked the process in seven northern provinces, demanding the electoral commission first invalidate around 300,000 "fraudulent" ballots out of a total of 1.8 million.

Last Friday, however, Abdullah said the recount could go ahead.

Fazel Ahmad Manawi, a senior official with Abdullah's team, said he did not plan to protest the preliminary results and was counting on the country's electoral complaint commission to purge any fraudulent votes before final results are announced.

"The result -- if not first cleaned from hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes -- will not be acceptable for us and the people," Manawi told AFP.

The election was meant to be the cleanest yet in Afghanistan's young democracy, with a German firm supplying biometric machines to stop people from voting more than once.

But nearly a million of the initial votes were purged owing to irregularities, meaning the election saw by far the lowest turnout of any Afghan poll.

The ongoing uncertainty has raised the risk of a repeat of the crisis that followed the last presidential election in 2014.

Then, Ghani and Abdullah fought a close race that sparked widespread allegations of fraud and saw the US step in to broker an awkward power-sharing agreement between the rivals.

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has ended his boycott of a recount