Khan supporters celebrate as Pakistan faces electoral chaos
Pakistan woke to electoral chaos on Thursday with the outgoing ruling party denouncing "blatant rigging" in the pivotal general election and rejecting unofficial, partial results suggesting victory for former cricket champion Imran Khan.
Results were still being tallied on Thursday morning, hours after Khan's supporters took to the streets to celebrate victory in an election opponents have said the powerful military rigged in his favour. Local media said less than half the votes had been counted more than 13 hours after polls closed, an unprecedented delay that has fuelled widespread fears over the legitimacy of the exercise.
The Election Commission of Pakistan dismissed allegations of manipulation, blaming the delay on glitches in new, untested counting software. "These elections were 100 per cent fair and transparent," said Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Muhammad Raza early on Thursday as the outcry grew. Raza did not say when election authorities would be in a position to announce the results.
Late on Wednesday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which had been in power since 2013, rejected the results because of "outright rigging", and vowed it would use "all political and legal options for redressal of these glaring excesses". "Today what they have done has pushed Pakistan back 30 years... People will not bear it," the party's leader Shahbaz Sharif, brother of jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif, said in a press conference.
Other major parties also alleged fraud, including the once-dominant Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), whose chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari echoed the PML-N's claim that party representatives were barred from monitoring the count, tweeting that the situation was "Inexcusable & outrageous". Local television channels were all predicting victory for Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, with the partial results giving him at least 100 seats so far in the National Assembly, the lower house. A majority of 137 seats is needed to form a government.
Neither Imran Khan nor the military, which had been accused of seeking to manipulate the vote in his favour in the months leading up to the polls, have yet commented on the situation. Both have previously denied allegations of intervention. The controversy follows a campaign already considered by some observers to be one of the "dirtiest" in the Pakistan's history because of the allegations against the military, and marked by the increased visibility of extremist religious parties. (AFP)