ISLAMABAD: Independents backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan won the most seats in Pakistan’s election on Friday (Feb 9) after results from over half the constituencies were announced, leaving political parties trailing.
Almost 24 hours have passed since the close of polls and the results have been unusually delayed, which the government ascribed to the suspension of mobile phone services – a security measure ahead of Thursday’s election.
Of the 136 seats counted by 10.45am GMT (6.45pm Singapore time) from 235 contested, independent candidates backed by Khan had won 49, according to a Reuters tally of results declared by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 42 while the Pakistan Peoples Party of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto, got 34.
The rest were won by small parties and other independents.
Independent members cannot form a government on their own under Pakistan’s complex election system which also includes reserved seats that will be allotted to parties based on their winnings.
But independent members have the option to join any party after the elections.
Khan is in jail and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was barred from the election, so his supporters contested as independents.
Analysts have predicted there may be no clear winner, adding to the woes of a country struggling to recover from an economic crisis while it grapples with rising militant violence in a deeply polarised political environment.
“A timely announcement of the results, leading to a smooth formation of a new government will reduce policy and political uncertainty,” Moody’s Investors Service said. “This is crucial for the country that is facing very challenging macroeconomic conditions.”
The delay in the announcement of results was unusual for elections in Pakistan. Karachi’s stock index and Pakistan’s sovereign bonds fell because of the uncertainty.
An “internet issue” was the reason behind the delay, Zafar Iqbal, special secretary at the ECP, said without elaborating.
The main electoral battle was expected to be between candidates backed by Khan, whose PTI won the last national election, and the PML-N of Sharif. Khan believes the powerful military is behind a crackdown to hound his party out of existence, while analysts and opponents say Sharif is being backed by the generals.
The military has dominated the nuclear-armed country either directly or indirectly in its 76 years of independence but for several years it has maintained it does not interfere in politics.
Sharif, considered by many observers to be a strong candidate, has dismissed talk of an unclear result but a close aide, Ishaq Dar, told GEO TV that the party could form a coalition with the support of independents.
“I am confident that we will form a government,” Dar said.
Source: Channel News Asia