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Pakistan opposition parties to boycott presidential election

Pakistan's two main secular opposition parties have announced that they will boycott the country's July 30 presidential election. The two parties claim that they haven't been given enough time to campaign.

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) announced on Friday that they would not participate in next week's presidential poll, citing a Supreme Court decision to hold the ballot a week earlier than originally scheduled.

"We are boycotting the presidential election, and we are doing it because we had no other option," said Raza Rabbani (pictured above), who had been nominated to run as the PPP's candidate. "We were not given enough time to do our campaign."

"The Supreme Court did not issue us any notices, nor did they hear us or provide us an opportunity to present our point of view…a unilateral decision was made," Rabbani said.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leader of the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), called the boycott immature and urged the parties to participate in the election.

"It will harm the democracy," said Senator Mushahidullah Khan, a member of Sharif's PML-N.

Controversial court ruling

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the election should be held on July 30 instead of the originally scheduled date, August 6. The ruling came in response to concerns voiced by the PML-N, which said that many lawmakers would be participating in the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia at the end of Ramadan. They would therefore be unable to participate in the election, according to PML-N officials.

Pakistan's president is elected by the Senate, National Assembly and the legislatures of the four provinces for a five-year term. The office is largely ceremonial. Although 24 candidates applied to participate in the July 30 election, PML-N candidate Mamnoon Hussain is widely expected to win.

Pakistan already held general elections last May, in which the PML-N ousted the PPP from power. The parliamentary polls saw the first democratic transition from one civilian government to another in the country's 65-year history. But pre-election violence by the Pakistani Taliban largely prevented the secular PPP and ANP from campaigning.

In addition to the bloody Taliban insurgency and sectarian violence, Pakistan also faces a weak economy and electricity shortages.

slk/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)