KABUL (Reuters) - The final result of the presidential election held in Afghanistan over a month ago will be announced on Thursday, a day later than planned because of a high number of voter complaints, the election authorities said.
Preliminary results late last month indicated no candidate would emerge with an absolute majority. If final results confirm the initial count, a run-off will be held between the two leading contenders, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.
The final result would be announced on Thursday at 11 am (7.30 a.m. BST), IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said. Failure of the complaints commission to submit its final report on time was the reason for the delay.
A spokesman for the commission said this was because it had been flooded with an unexpectedly high number of complaints, including over 900 classed serious enough to affect the outcome of the vote.
"That's why it took longer," said Nader Mohseni said.
This number exceeds the 815 recorded during the previous election held in 2009, when over a million votes were cast out as fraudulent.
A second round of voting was initially scheduled for May 28, but is now expected to be pushed back to mid-June if required.
The volume of complaints and subsequent delays has not dampened enthusiasm for the democratic process, widely seen as a success because of the high turn-out.
According to the commission's preliminary results, Abdullah finished top with 44.9 percent, followed by Ghani with 31.5 percent.
President Hamid Karzai was constitutionally barred from standing for a third term. His successor will face a range of challenges, including leading the country to sovereignty after more than a decade of foreign military occupation.
Around 7 million of an eligible 12 million voters braved the threat of Taliban attacks to cast ballots in what will be the first democratic transition of power in their country's history.
Most foreign combat troops are set to withdraw by the end of the year, leaving security to Afghanistan's Western-backed military and police force.
(Reporting by Jessica Donati and Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)