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Pakistan elections 2024: As vote counting nears finish line, who will become the next Prime Minister?

Votes are still being counted as Pakistan's Election Commission received criticism for the delay in announcements, with Imran Khan-backed independents in the lead. Nawaz Sharif and Imran both claimed victory, despite neither of them reaching the majority mark.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: February 10, 2024 9:36 IST
Pakistan, Pakistan elections, Prime Minister
Image Source : AP Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan - the main rivals of this year's elections in Pakistan

Pakistan elections 2024: The vote counting for Pakistan's general elections picked up its pace after delays that drew flak from several political parties, with no clear victor in sight. Speculation about Pakistan's next Prime Minister continues to grow as both Nawaz Sharif and imprisoned Imran Khan claimed victory as the counting neared the finish line on Saturday.

Nawaz's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won the most seats by a single party in Thursday's elections, but independent candidates, most of them backed by Imran's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won the most seats overall. The results of 245 constituencies were declared by 12 am on Saturday, where independents won 98 seats, PML-N won 69 and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won 51. 

To form a government, a party must win 133 seats out of 265 in the National Assembly. Overall, 169 seats are needed to secure a simple majority out of its total 336 seats, which include the reserved slots for women and minorities.

Having failed to get the majority in the elections, Nawaz called for a unity government as the country appeared to be heading towards a hung parliament. Nawaz said that he wants to lead the country to prosperity while developing peaceful relations with neighbours. Addressing his party workers in Lahore, Nawaz Sharif said that he has told his younger brother Shehbaz to reach out to the PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari, JUI-F’s (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl) Fazlur Rehman and MQM-P’s (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui for the formation of a coalition government.

Citing the need for all political parties to sit together and form a government, Nawaz Sharif said that elections cannot be held again and again and everyone should play a positive role in bringing Pakistan out of crisis. “We can’t hold elections again and again. We were all sitting together yesterday but didn’t address you because the results were not in. All the institutions in this country, every one should together play a positive role in bringing Pakistan out of this crisis,” he said.

London plan failed, says Imran in AI-enabled voice

Meanwhile, Imran Khan, whose party faced a crackdown and had its electoral symbol stripped away, released a 'victory speech' in his AI-enabled voice, saying that the 'London Plan' of Nawaz and the Army failed with the massive turnout of voters on polling day.

"My beloved countrymen, by turning out in such huge numbers and exercising your democratic right of franchise, you have laid the foundation for the restoration of the freedom to exercise citizens' rights. I congratulate you all on helping us win the elections handsomely," he said in a video posted on X. "The 'London Plan' failed because of your active participation in the democratic exercise. Nawaz Sharif is a leader of low intelligence who gave a victory speech despite his party trailing in 30 seats," he added.

Imran had been in jail since August, and was convicted three times in six days in the lead-up to the polls for 10, 14 and seven years in cases related to state secrets, graft and unlawful marriage. His rival Nawaz returned from four years of self-imposed exile and was considered the front-runner to lead the country, having buried a long-running feud with the powerful military.

Earlier, PTI chairman Barrister Gohar Khan ruled out forging an alliance with the PPP and PML-N, saying his party is in a position to form a federal government on its own. He had claimed that his party was winning 150 National Assembly seats and would be able to achieve the required number of seats to form government at the Centre.

Election delay receives flak

Results of the vote have been unusually delayed, which the caretaker government ascribed to the suspension of mobile phone services - a security measure ahead of the election. Votes are still being counted after Thursday's general election which was marred by allegations of rigging, sporadic violence and a countrywide mobile phone shutdown.

Authorities were earlier moving at a snail's pace to announce the election results that in a surprising development showed Khan's PTI supported independent candidates leading the show. The polling ended at 5 pm on Thursday but the first official result was announced 10 hours later at 3 am on Friday, irking many about the delay and giving fuel to the rumours of foul play to manipulate the outcome.

Meanwhile, the US said it was looking forward to timely, complete results that reflect the will of the Pakistani people, a State Department spokesperson said on Friday, amidst allegations of vote rigging in the general elections held on Thursday.

(with inputs from agencies)

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