Hung parliament predicted in Pakistan

February 17th, 2008 - 3:40 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) A hung parliament is being predicted in Pakistan as the nation goes to the polls in the country’s 10th general elections Monday amid fears of violence and political uncertainty. “We’ll sweep the polls,” says Pervez Elahi, prime minister hopeful of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), which is backed by President Pervez Musharraf. But political analysts say the only way the party can win the polls is through rigging.

“We have worked in the last five years and this will help win the polls,” Elahi said in his last television interview a day before the voting, which is expected to see the lowest ever turnout.

There is speculation that none of the three leading parties, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), PML-Q and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-Nawaz, will get clear majority in the elections.

However, political analysts say that the establishment will help the PML-Q in forming the government with the help of smaller parties like Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Awami National Party (ANP), PML-Functional and others.

A top government official said that the PML-Q will win 55 seats, MQM 16, JUI 18, ANP 12, other smaller parties and independents 25, and 12 will come from the tribal areas that has a history of siding with the government. “I don’t see any problem in forming the government, we don’t need any rigging to get the Q League to form the government,” the official said requesting anonymity.

The total, according to figures by the official, comes to 138 - the number required to form government. The National Assembly has 342 seats, with direct elections held to 272 seats. Sixty seats are reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims, which is divided among the winning parties on proportional representation basis.

However, both the PPP and PML-N have warned of “agitation” in case of rigging. “Everyone can read the writing on the wall… PML-Q is bound to be routed,” said Asif Zardari, husband of assassinated PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, after meeting Sharif in Lahore Saturday.

Sharif was sent into forced exile a year after his government was overthrown. However, he managed his return in November last year but has been barred from contesting the polls. He has fielded his party’s candidates throughout the country.

Bhutto, who left the country in April 1999 and returned in October last year to lead her party in the elections, was assassinated Dec 27 minutes after she addressed an election rally in Rawalpindi’s historic Liaquat Bagh. Her husband Asif Ali Zardari is now leading the party in elections and is hopeful of winning Monday’s polls by a big margin.

Musharraf, under pressure from the international community, held elections in 2002, which were allegedly rigged in favour of his favourites who formed the government. Instead of the sacking the assembly, Musharraf got the prime minister changed.

The assembly completed its term last November, but just before that Musharraf got himself elected as president for another five years. Before taking oath as civilian president he quit the army chief’s office. He is the only president who was elected in uniform but took oath as a “civilian”.

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