Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Sharif Both Claim Victory in Election, Despite No Clear Majority

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Imran Khan’s political party has declared it intends to form the next government after claiming a shock election victory, despite efforts by the opposition to take power in a backroom coalition deal.

Pakistan faces a period of uncertainty with the election results showing no clear majority and two opposing political leaders, former Prime Minister Imran Khan from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Nawaz Sharif from Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN), declaring victory.

Full results of Thursday’s elections were still not in for nine of the 265 national seats contested late on Saturday.

Speaking to the Observer in the capital Islamabad, PTI party chairman Gohar Ali Khan emphasised the party’s intention to form the government, despite many obstacles in its path. While candidates linked to the PTI are well ahead with 102 seats, according to the latest tally posted on the election commission’s website, it was not enough to claim a simple majority in parliament.

Meanwhile, Sharif’s PMLN is in second position, having secured 73 seats, followed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) with 54.

“The results are clear: we are the majority party and we’re going to be forming the government,” Ali Khan said. “Common sense must prevail. The people have spoken and they have given us the mandate to form the government. That needs to be respected before they come out on the street, even if we ask them not to.”

He added: “The people have spoken, they want Pakistan to be independent, to be democratic.”

Ali Khan, however, conceded that PTI faced “a tough situation”. The party says the true number won by PTI is 154 seats, but dozens were taken away in alleged widespread vote rigging and manipulation, which it is now contesting with the election commission.

Meanwhile, PMLN’s Sharif, who also claims to have won the polls, said he would seek to form a coalition government. And the PPP’s Zardari stressed there cannot be a formation of a federal government, as well as in Punjab and Balochistan provinces, without his PPP party.

Both parties met on Friday night and again on Saturday to discuss forming a coalition with other smaller parties, to gain a majority to keep PTI out of power.

PMLN and PPP are seen as legacy parties, run by two of Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasties – the Sharif family and the Zardari family, who have held power at different times over generations.

Khurram Dastgir Khan, a senior figure in PMLN and a former federal minister, said: “We will form a government but the complete coalition has yet to be decided.” Both sides confirmed there had been no discussions to join with PTI.

The military is a dominant player in Pakistan’s political affairs and directly ruled it for more than three decades since 1947.

Ayesha Siddiqa, senior fellow at King’s College London, said Pakistan’s army has been hoping for a weak coalition to be formed under the PMLN leadership.

Siddiqa said the army was likely to back a coalition government bringing together the PMLN and the PPP, but that it was still unsure who would lead it, whether Sharif or Zardari.

Analysts said it would probably be days before the next government was agreed upon.