The fiercest part of the race is expected to be between the two right-wing parties – the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif, who is now in jail following a corruption verdict against him, and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led by former cricket star Imran Khan.
The Pakistan Muslim League is the party of jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Imran is also expected to address a press conference later today. “Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the people of Pakistan”, he added.
Amid allegations of wrongdoing and rigging in the Pakistan elections, PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif said the party rejected the election results.
Sharif, the younger brother of disgraced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been jailed on corruption charges, disputed the election results even before they were announced.
An election official marks a voter’s thumb before casting her vote during Pakistan’s general election at a polling station in Islamabad on July 25, 2018.
The PML-N has taken hope in another opinion poll focusing on Punjab only – Sharif’s party had a lead of 51 per cent to PTI’s 30 per cent, according to the IPOR Consulting survey conducted from April 15 to June 2.
The Election Commission’s secretary Babar Yaqoob flatly denied allegations of vote count manipulation.
But any delay to the formation of a government is likely to be a concern for Pakistanis waking up to an unclear result, considering Pakistan’s turbulent political history and a brewing economic crisis.
Pakistan Muslim League chief Shahbaz Sharif cast his vote in the eastern city of Lahore soon after polls opened in national elections.
“This is complete chaos”, analyst Azeema Cheema told AFP. The PPP could emerge as a coalition kingmaker if no party wins a majority, as many expect. Twenty-three percent of the total voters would be taking part in the exercise for the first time.
Violence marred the knife-edge election in Pakistan as a suicide bomber killed at least 31 people.
The preliminary results from 37pc polling stations in Sindh show PPP-P leading on 75 seats, followed by PTI on 22 seats.
If that is the case, it would only mean more political power for a military that directly ruled Pakistan for nearly half its history and already has a significant role in foreign and national security policymaking.
With 48 percent of the vote counted, Khan’s PTI was listed by the ECP in its provisional results as leading in contests for 113 of 272 seats that were contested in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament.
With the PTI close behind the PML-N in the Punjab Assembly, independent candidates could eventually decide which of the two parties form the government in Pakistan’s most populous province.
Voting began at 8 am (local time) on Wednesday, during which most of Pakistan’s 106 million people came out to cast their votes.
The military, which has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 71-year history, denies any effort to influence the election.
The requirement was imposed after the 2013 elections, when several areas banned voting by women, mostly in the religiously conservative northwest.
“When asked if everyone’s conscience can be clear now, Khan replied, “I’m clear”. Islamic State claimed responsibility.
His Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal is a potential threat to opposition leader, former cricket star Imran Khan’s party in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
But the erstwhile playboy’s bid for power was dogged by widespread accusations he is benefiting from the support of the country’s powerful security establishment. No statement has been issued by Khan. The PML-N and the PPP both raised questions on the transparency of the vote counting process, alleging their polling agents were not allowed to verify vote counts as is mandated by law.