The front-runner in Afghanistan’s runoff presidential election has demanded that vote counting be stopped over fraud claims, a prospect that could throw into crisis the country’s first democratic handover of power.

Abdullah Abdullah’s statement Wednesday came despite calls from the United Nations to give officials time to conduct the count and investigate any complaints of irregularities.

But Abdullah’s team has questioned what it has determined is a 1 million vote lead by opponent Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in the early tallies. Abdullah pointed out that it is a dramatic increase from the first round, which put him in the lead with 45 percent of the vote compared with 31.6 percent for his rival.

“We suspend engagement with the [election] commission and we have asked our monitors to leave their offices,” Abdullah said in a statement Wednesday.

He added that “everybody knows that unfortunately the president of Afghanistan was not impartial” and that some ballot boxes were stuffed with votes the day before the second-round election.

An initial turnout estimate suggested that 7 million participated in Saturday’s vote, which would be about 60 percent of the 12 million eligible voters and equivalent to the first round of voting on April 5.

The initial results are not due until July 2, with final results on July 22.

The election comes at a delicate time, with the U.S. preparing to withdraw combat personnel by the end of 2014, although about 10,000 troops are set to remain into next year.

A smooth voting process was seen as a key test of the 13-year international military and aid effort to develop Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

source: America Aljazeera