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Pakistan president eyes election by current house

Written by: Staff
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ISLAMABAD, May 18 (Reuters) Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said he could be voted in for a second five-year term by the current parliament before its dissolution for general elections due at the end of 2007 or start of 2008.

Musharraf's current term expires next year and a debate has been going on in the media over whether the president, who came to power in a military coup over six years ago, could be re-elected by the present parliament and provincial assemblies or those formed after the general elections.

''You read the constitution. It is very clear... when the tenure of the president ends, as mine will do on Nov. 15, 2007, a minimum of one month before, or a maximum two months before, an election should be held for me again,'' Musharraf told Avt Khyber Television in an interview, parts of which were aired today.

''It means it (the presidential election) will be held between September 15 and October 15. There are no ifs or buts in the constitution,'' Musharraf told the private Pashto language channel.

The interview will be aired in full tomorrow.

Musharraf did not say categorically whether he would seek re-election from the current parliament or the new one formed after the general election, but a senior government official said the time period mentioned by Musharraf for the presidential election showed that it would be done by the current parliament.

''Technically, it will be done by the existing assemblies because general elections will be held after that period,'' the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Musharraf is widely expected to be re-elected given the majorities his allies enjoy in parliament and the provincial legislatures.

Under Pakistan's constitution, the two houses of parliament -- the National Assembly and Senate -- as well as four provincial legislatures elect the president.

Musharraf's remarks came as opposition parties moved to strengthen alliances in preparation for the coming general election.

Two exiled former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif last week vowed to work together by signing a ''charter of democracy'' in London and said they would return to Pakistan together before the elections.

Musharraf was first elected as president through a referendum in 2002, that his opponents say was rigged.

Later in 2003, he won parliament's endorsement, and obtained sweeping powers through amendments to the constitution as part of a deal with Islamist opposition parties in return for a pledge that he would give up his role as army chief by the end of 2004.

However, he later reneged on his pledge, saying his role in the US-led war on terrorism and peace moves with rival India made it necessary to remain as head of the army.

There is now heated speculation over whether Musharraf, who has survived several assassination attempts, will give up his uniform after 2007.

REUTERS PR RN1530

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