KABUL        -     Afghanistan’s election commission said it will miss the Saturday deadline for announcing initial results from the country’s presidential election last month. The commission attributed the delays to the time-consuming process of weeding out fraudulent votes and “slow data entry.” Hawa Alam Nuristani, head of the Independent Election Commission, apologized for the commission’s failure to announce the results on time. “Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said.

She gave no timetable for when the results would be announced, but said she hopes it will be “as soon as possible.”

The delay comes amid deepening political uncertainty following the Sept 28 vote. Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, said they expect to win and indicated they will not accept defeat because of suspected flaws in the voting process.

Inconclusive election results marred by fraud in the last presidential election in 2014 nearly tore the country apart. A political crisis was only averted after the United States brokered a power-sharing deal between Ghani and Abdullah.

Both men have said securing a peace deal to end the country’s 18-year war is a top priority. But a heavily contested vote would undercut any Afghan government’s standing in peace talks with the Taliban.

While talks with the Taliban were scuttled by Trump in early September, the US special representative for Afghanistan met with Taliban leaders in Pakistan earlier this month. Officials in Washington and Kabul assert that the US-Taliban talks are on hold and could be resumed.

The United Nations and the US Embassy have called on all candidates to respect the electoral process and wait official results before declaring victory.