Imran Khan – former cricketer turned politician – has won Pakistan’s heavily watched, and contentious, election. Khan’s party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or Pakistan Movement for Justice was rivaled against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – the party of the recently ousted Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and currently led by Shehbaz Sharif – and Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP) – led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
However, Khan’s party fell short of the 137 votes needed to obtain an outright majority; thus, his party will need to form a coalition.
With 207 million people, Pakistan is the world’s sixth-largest country by population, and this election is important both for the country and the region. Close to 106 million Pakistanis were registered to vote, with about 12,570 candidates competing for 272 parliamentary seats. More than 105 million individuals were registered to vote, but voter turn out was 51.78%, which was a slight drop from the 2013 general election.
This election is also the country’s only second civilian transfer of power in its 70-year history, thus a test for the country’s fragile democracy.
Violence at the Polls
There were about 85,000 polling stations across the country, and 800,000 police and military forces patrolled the polls, in order to ensure a peaceful transition of power. However, a suicide attack occurred in the city of Quetta that killed at least 31 people, and injured more than 40, demonstrating the risk of voting. An earlier attack also occurred on July 13 – claimed by ISIL – in Balochistan, killing 149 people. However, millions still came out to the polls to vote in the election.
Imran Khan has been popular among younger Pakistanis, and his win has broken the duopoly held by the PPP and PML-N parties for decades.
His campaign focused on ending corruption, and during his victory speech, Khan said, “our state institutions will be so strong that they will stop corruption. Accountability will start with me, then my ministers, and then it will go from there.” Khan has also pledged to create 10 million jobs, and build five million low-cost housing units over the next five years.
Khan has long been a critic of Pakistan’s former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif — who has been imprisoned, due to the Panama Papers scandal.
Internationally, Imran Khan has expressed finding a resolution with India about the Kashmir conflict stating in his victory speech, “if India’s leadership is ready, we are ready to improve ties with India. Take one step towards us, we will take two steps towards you. We need to have a dialogue to settle our issues.”
With the United States, Imran Khan also stated in his speech that he wanted a mutually beneficial relationship. However, he has criticized US policy in Afghanistan, and instead wants peace talks with the Taliban to end the conflict.
Opposition parties, including PML-N and PPP have claimed that the election was rigged, with Shehbaz Sharif stating that his party would “wholly reject” the result. The claims focus on the vote counting process, with six political parties claiming they were not allowed to witness the vote counting, which is required by law.
There was also a two-day delay in revealing the results of the election, which also intensified the rigging claims. However, the Election Commission of Pakistan has stated that the delay was caused by glitches in the new counting software, which led to the votes needed to be counted manually.
The EU’s election observer mission in Pakistan stated that there were, “positive changes to the legal framework,” of the election, but the polls, “were overshadowed by restrictions on freedom of expression and unequal campaign opportunities.”
FAFEN, an independent Pakistani election observer, also noted that in at least 35 constituencies, the winning margin was less than the number of votes rejected by election officials, a number that was similar in the 2013 general election.
Imran Khan stated in his speech that he will stand by any investigation into the electoral process, and said the election commissions were created by the two dominant parties — PPP and PML-N — thus, PTI has no involvement with the commission.
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