Poll Suggests Afghan Election Narrowing

Abdullah Abdullah Seen as Top Challenger to Karzai

by Jason Ditz, August 13, 2009

In one of the first polls made available regarding next Thursday’s Afghanistan presidential election, the US-funded International Republican Institute has suggested the campaign is narrowing, with opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah emerging as the primary rival to incumbent President Hamid Karzai.

The poll showed Karzai with 44 percent support and Abdullah with 26 percent. Ashraf Ghani, the former Finance Minister who made headlines last month when top Democratic Party adviser James Carville joined his campaign, managed only 6 percent.

Another poll, which was also funded by the US government, was released earlier in the week and showed a similar spread, albeit with different percentages. In that case Karzai was ahead of Abdullah 36 percent to 20 percent, with Ghani again an also-ran at 3 percent.

Between the Afghan nation’s natural diversity and the very real possibility that a good portion of the electorate will not be able to vote because of security concerns, it remains to be seen how well these polls will reflect the final result. Yet if they are accurate it suggests that Karzai has some ground to gain if he wants to secure the 50 percent needed to prevent a run-off vote which would give his opponent increased credibility and unite a splintered opposition.

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