Pakistani cricket icon-turned-politician Imran Khan inched closer to power on Thursday after a general election that has been marred by long delays in ballot counting and claims of rigging by opponents.
With nearly half the votes counted from Wednesday’s election, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), or Pakistan Movement for Justice, was in a commanding lead in the nuclear-armed, Muslim nation.
But supporters of jailed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the counting process was an assault on democracy in a country that has a history of military rule.
The stock market shot up nearly 2 percent in early trading on relief the likely coalition government will not be a weak one. Pakistan faces a mounting economic crisis that is likely to require a bailout by the International Monetary Fund, although PTI has not ruled out seeking succour from China, Islamabad’s closest ally.
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary Babar Yaqoob said told reporters early on Thursday counting had been delayed by technical failures in an electronic reporting system and the tallying was now being conducted manually. The results had been due by 2 a.m. (2100 GMT on Wednesday).
“There’s no conspiracy, nor any pressure in delay of the results. The delay is being caused because the result transmission system has collapsed,” Yaqoob said.
Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza also defended the process, saying “elections were 100 percent transparent and fair”, but could not set an exact deadline when the full results would be released.
With 48 percent of the total vote counted, Khan’s PTI was listed by the ECP in its provisional results as leading in 113 of 272 contested National Assembly constituencies.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was ahead in 64 constituencies, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by the son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, led in 42 constituencies.