Imran Khan supporters lead in Pakistan election results
Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan's supporters had an advantage in Pakistan's election results on Friday, with counts from over 100 seats showing their lead, local media reported.
Unusual delays in vote counts, attributed by the government to a suspension of mobile phone services, impacted the announcement.
According to Geo News, independents, largely aligned with Khan, secured victory in 47 out of 106 seats with available results. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had officially announced 70 results by 0800 GMT, with independents winning 24 seats.
The Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) each secured 24 and 18 seats, respectively, out of the announced results. The remainder went to smaller parties.
Khan, currently in jail, had his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party barred from the election, prompting his supporters to contest as independents. Analysts foresee no clear winner, exacerbating the challenges faced by a nation grappling with economic turmoil and escalating militant violence amidst a deeply divided political landscape.
Moody's Investors Service emphasized the importance of timely result announcements for reducing policy and political uncertainty, crucial for Pakistan amid daunting macroeconomic conditions. The delay in result announcements, atypical for Pakistani elections, resulted in stock market and sovereign bond declines, further compounding uncertainty.
The government cited an "internet issue" as the reason for the delay, although it had suspended mobile phone services as a security measure ahead of the election. The restoration of services was underway.
The main contest was expected between candidates supported by Khan's PTI and Sharif's PML-N. While Khan accuses the military of orchestrating a crackdown against his party, analysts suggest Sharif enjoys military backing.
If the election yields no clear majority, navigating numerous challenges, particularly securing a new IMF bailout as the current program nears expiration, will prove daunting. Observers emphasize the military's stance as a decisive factor.
Despite extensive security measures, including troop deployments and border closures, election-related violence persisted. The U.S. and UN voiced concerns over freedom restrictions and violence during the electoral process, while Amnesty International condemned the suspension of mobile services as an assault on freedom of expression.