Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah leads the race to become Afghanistan's next president, according to the latest official tally of votes, but is short of an outright majority.

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission said initial results based on almost 50 percent of the vote from the 34 provinces showed Abdullah in the lead with 44.4 percent, Reuters news agency reported on Sunday.

Abdullah is followed by academic Ashraf Ghani who obtained a 33 percent share of the ballots.

Obtaining less than half the votes in the first round would mean the top two candidates going up against each other in a second round of elections. 

Zalmay Rassoul, backed by two of President Hamid Karzai's brothers, trailed far behind with 10.4 percent of the vote. 

Afghanistan's allies have hailed the April 5 vote as a success because of the high turnout, and the absence of any major attacks on polling day. However, evidence has subsequently emerged of widespread fraud.

The final first round results will be released on May 14 and a run-off, if needed will take place in late May.

Source: Reuters