ECP chief plays down delay in Pakistan election result announcements

Posted July 26, 2018

Pakistanis began voting in a historic third straight election ending a campaign marred by widespread allegations of manipulation that local and worldwide rights group say imperils the country's wobbly transition to democratic rule.

Pakistani cricket hero-turned-politician Imran Khan led in projected partial results of a general election on Thursday, as the party of his jailed chief rival, ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, rejected the eventual result as "blatantly" rigged. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was leading with 5,218 votes in NA-200 (Larkana I).

The ECP was also criticised for deploying the Army both inside and outside of polling stations.

The country is mid-way through election day.

However, only about a third of the votes have been counted so far, Dawn newspaper says.

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But Yaqoob said the vote-counting system, which he said was untested, had "crashed", adding: "There is definitely no conspiracy, no one wants to influence the results".

"We support free, fair, transparent and accountable elections in Pakistan, as we do around the world; and we encourage all Pakistanis to peacefully exercise their democratic right to vote", the spokesperson said. Ikramullah Gandapur, a candidate for PTI, and Haroon Bilour, who was standing for the secular Awami National Party, were assassinated in separate attacks in northwestern Pakistan. "Its the right of polling agents to receive election results".

Many of Khan's supporters are already on the streets of Pakistan's town and cities celebrating his victory as if it is a certainty.

Dozens of people were killed on Wednesday in a suicide bombing near a polling station in the city of Quetta in western Pakistan.

A suicide bomber drove towards security personnel before detonating the bomb, according to reports.

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Almost 106 million people were eligible to vote in the parliamentary election in what is meant to be a rare democratic transition in the nuclear-armed country, which has been ruled by the powerful military for roughly half its history.

With 42 per cent of polling stations counted, the Election Commission of Pakistan had Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party leading in 113 of 272 contested National Assembly constituencies, according to Pakistan's Dawn Newspaper.

Bhutto - son of slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto - and his PPP could be called upon to form a coalition with any victor. In this scenario, the PTI is likely to form a coalition government.

The turnout has been estimated at between 50% and 55% out of 106 million registered voters, AFP reports. It is to be noted that out of the total 272 National Assembly seats, 141 fall in Punjab, the most populous province of the country.

"This is not an election, it is selection - to install someone of your own choice and to topple others", Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a senior PML-N leader, said at the press conference with Sharif.

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Early on Thursday, Sharif's brother Shehbaz, who now leads the PML-N, rejected the results after complaints that soldiers stationed in polling stations had thrown out poll monitors from political parties during the counting.

Hours after polling began for the general elections, an Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up outside a polling station in Bhosa Mandi area of Balochistan's provincial capital, Quetta, killing 31 people, including policemen.

Image copyright EPA Image caption The attack has been claimed by the Islamic State Why does this election matter?

The election has been plagued by allegations the powerful armed forces have been trying to tilt the race in Mr Khan's favour after falling out with the outgoing ruling party of Mr Sharif, who was jailed on corruption charges this month. Even during the civilian rule, the generals have wielded enormous power, setting the agenda for the country's foreign and security policies.

The military has rejected the accusations, saying it has no "direct role" in the electoral process. IS claimed responsibility for that attack.

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