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Elections in Pakistan: pro-Imran Khan candidates in the lead at mid-count

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Elections in Pakistan: pro-Imran Khan candidates in the lead at mid-count

Supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, currently imprisoned, are leading the elections in Pakistan on Friday after the counting of just over half of the constituencies. However, he only has a narrow lead over the two largest parties.

At 4:00 p.m. (12:00 p.m. in Switzerland) – almost 24 hours after polling stations closed – the Election Commission of Pakistan announced only 136 results out of 266 expected.

The slowness of the counting only added to suspicions of manipulation against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Imran Khan’s party was not allowed to appear on the ballot, forcing its candidates to compete as independents.

Despite everything, the preliminary official results give 49 seats to the independents linked to the PTI for the legislative election, against 42 for the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Nawaz Sharif, which was nevertheless the favorite of the election.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, representing the country’s other political dynasty, also did better than expected with 34 seats, according to the Election Commission.

No absolute majority

If these results are confirmed, none of the three blocs will be able to obtain an absolute majority and govern alone. The winner will need to forge alliances to form a coalition government, with all options appearing open.

Nawaz Sharif, 74, who returned to Pakistan in October after four years of exile in London, would have the support of the army according to observers. A victory for his party could allow him to lead the country for the fourth time.

Candidates supported by the PTI mainly won seats in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (northwest), its stronghold. However, many seats remain to be filled in the province of Punjab, the most populous in the country, where Nawaz Sharif forged his career.

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‘A limit to electoral manipulation’

‘Even if the PTI fails to form a government, the elections show that there is a limit to electoral manipulation,’ Bilal Gilani, executive director of the Gallup Pakistan polling institute, told AFP. ‘This shows that the army does not always get what it wants’

The Interior Ministry said Friday that 61 attacks took place on Thursday, election day. They left 16 dead and 54 injured. The day before, 28 people had died in two bomb attacks claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), in the province of Baluchistan (South-West).

The campaign was marked by accusations of ‘pre-election fraud’, with the sidelining of the popular Imran Khan, 71, sentenced to three long prison terms, and repression against his party.

Before the announcement of the first official results, PTI chief organizer Omar Ayub Khan expressed confidence that his party would be ‘capable of forming the next federal government with a two-thirds majority’, in a statement. video to the media.

‘An effort is underway to falsify the results,’ also accused Raoof Hasan, head of information for the PTI. The party has continued to denounce manipulation throughout the electoral process.

The PML-N and the PPP had formed a coalition government, under the leadership of Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother, after the ouster of Imran Khan from the post of prime minister through a no-confidence motion in April 2022.

The PPP then distanced itself from the PML-N during the campaign and seems to have suffered less from the unpopularity of this government. Its leader, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 35, son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, assassinated in 2007, spoke of ‘very encouraging’ results.

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‘Delaying tactics’

The National Assembly has 336 deputies, but 70 seats are reserved for women and religious minorities and allocated proportionally. As the PTI is not authorized to compete under its own colors, it cannot claim any of these additional seats.

Independents have 72 hours to decide whether they join a parliamentary group or not, which also works against the PTI. This gives other parties time to woo the independents it supports and push them to join them.

The Commission cited ‘internet problems’ to explain the slowness of the process. The authorities’ cutoff of mobile telephone and internet services on Thursday had already reinforced doubts about the fairness of the elections.

‘The delaying tactics speak for themselves: the results are being falsified, there is no other reason behind this delay,’ said Nisar Ahmed, a 45-year-old trader in Karachi.

Imran Khan hoped to benefit, as during his election in 2018, from the mobilization of youth, thirsty for change after decades of domination by the PML-N and the PPP, deemed corrupt.

The former cricket star’s anti-establishment posture explains why his popularity has remained intact, despite a stint in power marked by the deterioration of the economic situation.

He directly challenged the army, which ruled the country for decades and was nevertheless suspected of having supported it in 2018. He accused it of having orchestrated his fall in 2022 and attributed his legal troubles to it.


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