Pakistan poll: Imran Khan-backed independents lead in final poll count
Islamabad — The final results of Pakistan’s national election put independents, backed by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan, in the lead with 93 of 264 seats.
The party of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was second with 75 seats after Thursday’s vote, lacking a clear majority but it was the largest single party in parliament as Khan’s independents ran as individuals.
As coalition talks were held and protesters blocked roads in the north of the country, it was not clear who would form a government. The final tally of votes was published by the election commission more than 60 hours after voting ended, raising questions over the delay.
The former prime ministers and bitter rivals have both declared victory, adding to the uncertainty as the country faces numerous urgent challenges, including negotiating a new IMF programme to keep a struggling economy afloat.
A prime ministerial candidate has to show a simple majority of 169 seats in the national assembly when the house is called in the coming days. This will be determined by coalition talks and whether Khan-backed candidates are able to join a smaller party in parliament to form a single bloc to gain reserve seats.
Khan’s PTI party had threatened to hold nationwide peaceful demonstrations on Sunday if the vote tally was not released overnight. While a large-scale protest was called off, a police source and motorists said hundreds of PTI supporters had blocked traffic in the northern city of Peshawar.
“We are stuck here on the road as the PTI workers had closed the motorway as a protest,” said motorist Shah Zaman Khan.
A police source said about 300 PTI supporters had blocked the main highway connecting Peshawar to the national capital.
Pakistan’s interim government said the voting count delay was caused by communications issues due to a mobile internet outage on election day. The outage, which authorities said was for security reasons, drew concern from human rights groups and foreign governments.
In a post on social media platform X on Sunday, a PTI party secretary said there should be demonstrations at certain electoral offices where they were concerned about “forged” results.
About 93 of the independent candidates who won seats were associated with Khan’s PTI party.
Khan’s supporters ran as independents because they were barred by the election commission on technical grounds from contesting the polls under his party’s electoral symbol.
Despite the ban and Khan’s imprisonment for convictions on charges ranging from leaking state secrets to corruption, millions of the former cricketer’s supporters came out to vote for him, even though he cannot be part of any government while he remains in prison.
One disadvantage the independents face in trying to form a government is that they, having not run as a party, are not eligible to be allocated any of parliament’s 70 reserved seats, which are distributed according to party strength in the final tally. Sharif’s party could get up to 20 of these seats.
A spokesperson for Sharif’s party said he had met representatives of the minority regional Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party and they had agreed to “in principle work jointly in the larger interest of the country”.
An MQM leader confirmed the meeting but said no formal coalition agreement had been made.
The election commission previously flagged that results for two seats could not yet be included, one in which a candidate was killed, requiring the postponement of polling, and another in which polling would be completed later this month.
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