Updated: 05/11/2014 15:53 | By Agence France-Presse

Ex-rival's support boosts Abdullah in Afghan election

Afghan election front-runner Abdullah Abdullah received a major boost to his campaign Sunday when Zalmai Rassoul, a close ally of the current president, endorsed him after withdrawing from the race.

Ex-rival's support boosts Abdullah in Afghan election

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a press conference at his residence in Kabul on April 27, 2014 - by Shah Marai

Rassoul was seen as the favoured candidate of outgoing President Hamid Karzai, and his support for Abdullah could be a decisive move in deal-making to choose Afghanistan's next leader as US-led troops withdraw from the country.

Rassoul's own bid to become president gained little momentum and he came third with a disappointing 11.5 percent in the first round of voting, but he remains an influential power-broker.

"The moderation, equality and reconstruction team led by Doctor Zalmai Rassoul announces its support for the team led by Doctor Abdullah Abdullah," Javid Faisal, Rassoul's spokesman, told a press conference.

The second-round vote will pit Abdullah against former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani in a head-to-head battle next month, after the two came top in the eight-man election on April 5.

Neither candidate secured the 50 percent needed for outright victory, with Abdullah gaining 44.9 percent and Ghani on 31.5 percent, according to preliminary results.

The official final result will be announced on Wednesday after weeks of adjudication over fraud complaints.

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