Slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party is seeking to form a coalition with opponents of President Musharraf, who conceded defeat Tuesday after preliminary election results. (Story: N. Charbit)
Feb.19 – Pakistan’s main opposition parties are heading for a victory in the Feb. 18 parliamentary polls defeating President Musharraf’s allies, according to unofficial results released on Tuesday.
The latest results show slain leader Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan’s People Party and former Premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) in a tight race to emerge as the largest majority in Parliament.
No party is expected to win a majority in the 342-seat National Assembly but the two main opposition parties are set to be the biggest. The party with the most number of seats will lead a possible coalition.
With results out for almost 250 constituencies, Bhutto's PPP won 83 seats while PML-N bagged 64 seats.
This vote has been a major blow for pro-Musharraf parties with the PML-Q winning only 37 seats. "We accept the verdict of the nation," Tariq Azeem, spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), told AFP.
“Most leaders from the PML-Q have lost their seats in the national assembly,” FRANCE 24’s Philippe Lavasseur reports from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
Official results are expected late Tuesday or Wednesday.
These parliamentary elections, the first since 2002, were a crucial step towards the restoration of democracy after nearly a decade of military rule.
The elections were originally scheduled for January 2008 but were postponed for almost six weeks after Bhutto was assassinated on Dec. 27.
Celebrating Musharraf’s defeat
Opposition supporters, carrying Bhutto and Sharif posters, took to the streets late Monday to celebrate Musharraf’s defeat as intial results started pouring in.
For the first time in weeks, gunfire shots heard in the streets were celebratory.
“People were waving opposition flags and were singing and dancing in the streets of Rawalpindi,” says Lavasseur who was in the garrison city near the capital Islamabad.
Musharraf, meanwhile, did not contest the election and called for national reconciliation in a statement late Monday.
"Whosoever wins the polls, as president of Pakistan I will function with them in a totally harmonious manner," Musharraf told state television.
"It's the moment of truth for the president," Abbas Nasir, editor of thePakistani daily Dawn, told Reuters news agency. "There will be thoughts swirling in his mind, whether he can forge a working relationship with two parties whose leadership he kept out of the country."
The election could decide President Musharraf’s political fate. In case the opposition wins a necessary two-thirds majority in the parliamentary it could try impeach the embattled president.
Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999, ousting Nawaz Sharif. In 2002, a parliament was elected with Musharraf’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), winning a large majority. That same parliament reelected Musharraf as president in November 2007, but the country’s top judges were expected to invalidate his reelection on grounds it was not democratic. Musharraf then declared a state of emergency and sacked the judges.
Date created : 2008-02-19