Pakistan's Sharif starts coalition talks
Former PM leads but may fall short of majority
Sharif supporters celebrate election victory (Photo: AFP/Arif Ali)
Former Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif has reportedly begun coalition talks with independents after preliminary results from Saturday's general election put his party in the lead, but still short of the figure needed for control of parliament.
The polls, whose buildup over the past month was marred by militant attacks that killed almost 130 people, drew a 63 percent turnout, the highest since Pakistan’s first elections in 1970. As of early Monday, Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) had 127 of 272 National Assembly seats, 10 short of what it would need to win a majority. Seventy seats remain up for grabs.
Former cricketer Imran Khan, who remains in hospital after a fall in the buildup to the poll, used a video address on Sunday to lash out at what he said was a rigged vote in Lahore and Karachi. Despite broad support among Pakistanis for his anti-corruption platform, his Movement for Justice Party has so far gained only 31 seats.
His supporters on Sunday staged protests outside the Election Commission office in Karachi in Pakistan’s south, where Khan has accused officials of ignoring or colluding in voter intimidation and rigging.
Much of the election-related violence over the past month came after the Taliban called for an election boycott and directed attacks towards secular parties. Last week it warned people to “stay away from polling stations to save their lives, for the better future of their children and for the Islamic system.”
Yet Sharif, a religious conservative who has ruled the country twice in the past before being ousted by the military in 1999, has been accused of capitalizing on sympathy from the militant group. Unlike other parties, his PML-N was allowed to campaign openly, while the main parties of the outgoing coalition government, accused of secularism, became the target of coordinated attacks.
Final election results are not expected to be announced until Wednesday. A victory for the PML-N would mark the first time in Pakistan’s history that power has been transferred between two civilian governments.
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