Sun, Oct 07, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Pakistani president leads in controversial elections

AP , ISLAMABAD

Unofficial results showed that Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf was leading yesterday's election, but the Supreme Court could still disqualify the military leader.

The election by federal and provincial lawmakers was a one-sided affair. Opposition parties abstained or boycotted to protest Musharraf's running for a new five-year term while still army chief.

Chief Election Commissioner Qazi Muhammad Farooq announced that Musharraf had won 252 of the 257 votes cast in parliament, with three ballots judged invalid and two votes going to his main rival, retired judge Wajihuddin Ahmad.

Pakistan Television reported unofficial results that Musharraf had also swept the voting in three of Pakistan's four provinces. Counting was still underway in the fourth province of Sindh.

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the official results can only be declared after it rules on complaints lodged by Musharraf's opponents that his candidacy is unconstitutional.

Ruling-party lawmakers were claiming victory even before counting began. Only a handful of the government's opponents were among the 691 lawmakers who turned out to vote.

"He will be elected with a vast majority," Privatization Minister Wasi Zafar said. "God willing we will enter full democracy."

But the opposition said the ballot was invalid.

"We will not accept him as president. He flouted the Constitution, and he is a person who has hardly any respect for the rule of law," said Sadique ul-Farooq, a leader of the party of exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim said complete unofficial results would be known by 4:30pm.

Hearings on the petitions challenging Musharraf's candidacy will resume on Oct. 17, meaning if Musharraf wins he would have to wait at least 11 days before knowing whether he could take office.

His current presidential term expires on Nov. 15.

Pakistan Television reported that Musharraf won unanimously in Baluchistan Province with 33 votes and polled 31 of the 34 ballots cast in North West Frontier Province. In Punjab, Musharraf won 253 of the 257 votes cast, it said.

Musharraf has seen his popularity plummet since a failed bid to oust the country's top judge in March and has promised to give up his powerful army post if he wins the election and to restore civilian rule.

He says he wants to stay on to continue policies that have turned around Pakistan's economy despite its position on the front line of the US-led war on terrorism.

It appears likely he will form an alliance with exiled prime minister Benazir Bhutto after parliamentary elections in January.

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