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Rassoul Backs Abdullah for Afghan President After Coming Third

May 12 (Bloomberg) -- Zalmai Rassoul endorsed Abdullah Abdullah for the Afghan presidency after coming third in preliminary results from the first round of the election.

The support for Abdullah in a runoff follows an agreement to build “national unity” and work together on the peace process, stability and the economic development of Afghanistan, Rassoul told reporters yesterday in Kabul.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, finished first with 45 percent of the votes, short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a second round, according to the April 5 poll results announced on April 26. Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai came second with 32 percent, while Rassoul ranked third with less than 12 percent.

On May 3, Abdullah received the backing of first-round presidential candidate Gul Agha Sherzai, who served as governor of the Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces.

“The endorsements would probably provide good news for Abdullah’s team,” Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul-based security and political analyst, said in a phone interview. “Both Rassoul and Sherzai are Pashtuns and can help Abdullah obtain votes from areas where Pashtun ethnicity is in majority.”

Rassoul got 53 percent of his votes from Kandahar, where most people are Pashtuns, while Ahmadzai had 15 percent and Abdullah 11 percent from the province, according to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan. Abdullah received most of his votes in areas where Tajiks and Hazaras are the majority. Ahmadzai was backed mostly by Uzbeks and some Pashtuns.

Pashtuns account for 42 percent of Afghanistan’s 32 million people, while Tajiks make up 27 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook. Uzbeks and Hazaras each account for 9 percent, with other groups comprising the rest.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eltaf Najafizada in Kabul, Afghanistan at enajafizada1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net Heather Langan, James Amott

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