Musharraf's re-election vote set for Oct. 6

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ISLAMABAD, Sep 20 (Reuters) Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will seek re-election on October 6, despite legal challenges in the Supreme Court and slumping popularity, the Election Commission nnounced today.

General Musharraf, who came to power in a coup eight years ago, has said he will retire from the army if elected, but opposition parties are seeking to block his plan.

''The vote for the presidential election will be held on October 6,'' Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad, spokesman for the Election Commission told Reuters.

The Supreme Court is hearing a set of petitions challenging Musharraf's right to retain his dual role, the legality of being elected while in uniform, and whether he should be allowed to get a mandate from the sitting assemblies before they are dissolved for a general election due by mid-January.

Musharraf's current tenure is due to expire on November 15, and his top legal aide has told the court that he will be sworn in as a civilian leader if he is given a fresh five-year mandate.

The decision of the court is crucial for Musharraf's political future as analysts say he might impose emergency rule if the court blocks his move to get re-elected.

In Pakistan, members of the parliament National Assembly and Senate as well as those from the four provincial assemblies elect the president.

Musharraf's allies enjoy simple majority needed to elect the president.

However, Musharraf, who has seen his popularity eroded since he tried to sack the chief justice of the country, is trying to forge a power-sharing alliance with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, head of largest political party, to shore up his position.

However, other opposition groups oppose Musharraf's bid for re-election and threatened to quit parliament if his nomination is accepted.

The nomination papers for the presidential election will be filed on Sept. 27 while the list of candidates will be finalised on Oct. 1.

REUTERS SZ AS1252

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