PPP, PML-N lead in Pak polls, no party set to get majority

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{image-pakpolls ballot01_19022008.jpg www.oneindia.com}Islamabad, Feb 19: In a crushing blow to President Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) -- the main political forces ranged against him -- had today established leads in the general elections but neither of them was expected to gain an absolute majority, making the formation of a coalition government imminent.

The PPP of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, riding on a sympathy wave, was emerging as the single largest party followed by PML-N of another former premier Nawaz Sharif. Elections were held for 269 of the 272 seats in the National Assembly. Another 70 seats in the 342-member strong National Assembly are reserved for non-Muslims (10) and women (60), which are allocated to parties according to the votes they poll. Of the 221 seats in the National Assembly from where results were available, the PPP had won 74 while the PML-N 62. The PML-Q got 31, MQM 17, ANP 10 and the MMA has won two seats. Independent candidates have won 20 seats. Elections were simultaneously held for the four provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and North West Frontier Province. Benazir's party won the maximum 51 seats in its stronghold of Sindh. The party got 64 seats in Punjab, seven in Balochistan and 14 in NWFP.

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Early counting results so far indicates that President Pervez Musharraf and his supporters from the PML-Q are struggling while both the PML(N) and the PPP are neck to neck.

The count at 12:30 pm stood as follows:

PPP - 77

PML(N) - 62

PML (Q) - 34

MQM, or the Muttahida Quami Movement - 16

Awami National party - 10

PPP (S) The Shahid Bhutto Faction - 1

PML(F) led by Sherpao - 4

Independents - 21

As expected the PML-N got the highest 95 seats in its citadel of Punjab and two in NWFP. The party is yet to win a seat in Sindh and Balochistan.
The PML-Q, which probably paid for its proximity to the beleagured former military ruler, was doing comparatively better in provinces having won 53 seats in Punjab, seven in Sindh, 14 in Balochistan and 5 in NWFP.

The MQM, which might play a crucial role in government formation, in the event of no party getting an absolute majority, has won 28 seats in Sindh and was yet to register a win in other provinces.

The ANP has won the highest 28 seats in NWFP while the party got two seats in Sindh and one in Balochistan. The MMA got six seats in Balochistan, five in NWFP and one in Punjab. The 64-year-old former Army General faces impeachment if the new government is formed under the banner of Mr Sharif, who was ousted by Gen Musharraf in a bloodless coup in October 1999.

Many stalwarts crashed to the ground with two PML-Q prime ministerial candidates-- PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi-- losing from their respective constituencies. Among other prominent leaders who faced defeat were former Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid, former National Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain, former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and MMA chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman.

A low voter turnout of 35 per cent was recorded in polling yesterday amid heightened fears of violence. At least eleven people were killed in sporadic poll-related violence. Counting for the elections began nearly as soon polling closed at 1700 hrs.

President Musharraf expressed satisfaction that the polls were completed in a ''free, fair and transparent'' manner as ''promised'' by him. He said it was time for ''political reconciliation'' and urged all the candidates to accept the results ''gracefully''. MQM chief Altaf Hussain expressed his willingness to have a dialogue with either of the two main opposition parties to form a coalition government.

UNI

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