Updated: 05/03/2014 19:38 | By Agence France-Presse

Former warlord joins Abdullah in Afghan election

A former Afghan warlord nicknamed "the bulldozer" joined front-runner Abdullah Abdullah's presidential campaign on Saturday, as deal-making hots up before the decisive run-off vote next month.

Former warlord joins Abdullah in Afghan election

Afghan supporters stand under political posters bearing the image of presidential candidate Gul Agha Sherzai during a political rally attended by Sherzai in Mazar-i-Sharif on March 30, 2014 - by Farshad Usyan

Gul Agha Sherzai, from Kandahar, won less than two percent of the vote in the April 5 election, but is seen as able to deliver some support from Pashtuns, Afghanistan's largest ethnic group.

Abdullah, whose support is strongest in Tajik ethnic areas, came first by a large margin in the election, though he fell short of the 50 percent threshold needed for outright victory, according to preliminary results.

"I, as a representative of my team, join Dr. Abdullah's team to bring security and welfare to the people of Afghanistan," Sherzai told a press conference with Abdullah.

"We have joined together for the country and the people."

Sherzai, a former governor of Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces, earned his nickname "the bulldozer" for pushing though major road and infrastructure projects -- as well as for his forceful personality.

Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani will compete in a head-to-head election scheduled for June 7.

The eventual winner will lead Afghanistan into a new era as US-led NATO combat troops end their 13-year war against the Islamist insurgency that erupted after President Hamid Karzai took power in 2001.

"We are proud of joining together, we were in touch from the very beginning," Abdullah said. "We have a long way ahead of us, we will use every opportunity for any alliances."

Preliminary results released a week ago showed Abdullah secured 44.9 percent of the first-round vote, with Ghani on 31.5 percent.

Another expensive, and potentially violent, election could be avoided by negotiations in the coming weeks, but both Abdullah and Ghani have dismissed talk of a power-sharing deal.

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