Rival campaign teams claim victory in Afghan election

Spokesmen for President Karzai and rival Abdullah Abdullah claim victory

Elections workers in Afghanistan have begun counting the votes of millions of Afghans following Thursday's presidential election.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's campaign chief claims that he has won enough votes to be re-elected without a second round. Deen Mohammad said Karzai had secured at least 50 per cent of all votes cast based on reports from 29,000 monitors his campaign team had placed across the country.

However, a spokesman for Karzai's main competitor, Abdullah Abdullah, also claimed victory. "It isn't true," he said. "We also say, 'Maybe we don't need a second round and Abdullah won'."

Turnout was affected by a series of Taliban attacks, particularly in the troubled south of the country. Soon after the polls opened a series of blasts took place in Helmand's provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Rockets fired into the city killed a child and EU election observers and journalists had their vehicle hit by a small roadside bomb. Zekria Barakzai, an official from the Afghan Election Commission, said: "The turnout was different from south to the north and central parts of Afghanistan but still it is satisfactory and I expect that turnout will be from 40 to 50%".

The official results are due to be announced next week.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.