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As we suspected, Afghanistan's former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah fell just short of winning the presidency, netting about 45 percent of the vote earlier this month. The leading candidate's success is noteworthy for a number of reasons, the very least of which is that he happens to be popular with America.

Abdullah lost the same election in 2009 to his bitter rival, outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai. But come June, Abdullah will face a run-off against Ashraf Ghani, a friend of Karzai and a former World Bank economist. (For more on both, check out our election guide here.)

For Abdullah to win, he'll have to cement some alliances with the bases of a few of the losing candidates. Here's what else we know:

Either of the top two candidates would represent a significant break with the years of deteriorating relations the United States has had with Afghanistan under Mr. Karzai, and a shift toward greater bilateral cooperation. Each candidate has said, for instance, that he would sign a security agreement allowing American forces to remain in the country past 2014, which Mr. Karzai negotiated but refused to sign.

Abdullah's potential ascent is remarkable for other reasons:

Technically, Abdullah is both ethnically Tajik and Pashtun, but seen more as Tajik, which is notable and could influence the next round of votes. And the part about the first non-Pashtun leader in 300 years is also not true, but it is less common. This is where the importance of forming alliances comes into play. 

Many moderate Pashtuns worry that a government led by Mr. Abdullah, whose power base has been among Tajiks in northern Afghanistan, would drive more Pashtuns into supporting the insurgents."

The two men have already announced they wouldn't seek a power-sharing deal, which would make a run-off moot. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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