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Afghanistan’s former finance minister Ashraf Ghani heads the race to become the country’s next president, according to an early count.

The country’s Independent Electoral Commission, said the outcome of the second round run-off was based on preliminary results. It gave Ghani more than 56 percent of the vote compared to rival Abdullah Abdullah’s near 44 percent.

Abdullah, who topped the election’s first round, has claimed widespread fraud throughout the presidential poll.

While not immediately available for comment on Monday, Abdullah had insisted any announcement should be delayed until all fraudulent votes were thrown out.

The claims of vote-rigging have seen large-scale protests by Abdullah’s supporters in the Afghan capital Kabul.

While the final result, which is not due until July 22, might still change there are fears the result could split the country along ethnic lines, and even cause a succession crisis in parts of Afghanistan, if Abdullah refuses to accept the outcome.

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