Sunday, May 12, 2013

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Claims Victory in Pakistan Election

At the Wall Street Journal, "Former PM Declares Victory in Pakistan: Voters Stream to Polls, but Twin Bombings Underscore the Dangers":

LAHORE, Pakistan—A conservative former Pakistani prime minister ousted in a 1999 military coup, Nawaz Sharif, appeared headed to victory Saturday in a closely fought election that also turned populist cricket legend Imran Khan into a major political force, according to early results.

Mr. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N was leading in 125 constituencies out of 272, according to partial and initial results. Mr. Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which boycotted the previous election in 2008, was leading in 35 races, while the Pakistan Peoples Party that controlled the previous government was projected to win 32 seats. With independents and small parties leading in many remaining races, these results, if they hold, could allow Mr. Sharif to form the next government of the world's fifth largest democracy.

The election would mark the first time in Pakistan's coup-ridden history that a civilian government served a full five-year term and transferred power to another elected administration. Turnout was close to 60 percent, according the country's election commission, much higher than the 44% in the previous vote, despite Taliban threats and scattered violence that killed at least 19 people.

"Pakistan needs a strong government that can take strong decisions," Mr. Sharif said as he watched the results stream in on TV in his Lahore headquarters, with cheers by supporters outside growing louder with every new projection. As his lead solidified, he came out to make a victory speech, urging supporters to pray for an outright PML-N majority by the end of the count, so that a future government could be established "without crutches."

Mr. Sharif, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal after the vote, said he foresaw no new problems with the country's powerful military establishment, saying that the 1999 coup against him was the personal initiative of then-army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and not the military as a whole.

He also said he would work for improved relations with the U.S., India and Afghanistan....

The Pakistani Taliban have focused their campaign of violence and intimidation that killed more than 100 people in the run-up to Saturday's vote on the PPP and its two secular allies, the Awami National Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

In the biggest attack on election day, 11 people were killed Saturday morning in twin bombings targeting an ANP office in the southern city of Karachi, a police official said. ANP, according to initial results, would have no seats in the new federal parliament, in part because Taliban violence made it nearly impossible for its candidates to campaign.
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