Pakistan has elected a new parliament. First results show that the Pakistan Muslim League of former Prime Minister Sharif secured a majority. The international press has high expectations for the new government.
Nawaz Sharif may not have won enough seats in parliament to rule on his own but he has built up enough momentum to avoid having to form a coalition with his main rivals, former cricketer Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which came in second, followed by the former ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP). The Munich-based German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung predicts a radical political change in the South Asian country:
"Mai 11 does not only stand for the triumph of Pakistan's old regime. Although it may have been drowned out by Sharif's victory celebrations, much has been set in motion. These elections herald a time of social upheaval that could rock the foundations of any future predominance of the country's political dynasties. Cricket star Imran Khan, who wants to re-invent Pakistan, managed to come in second in the polls. This means that Pakistan's façade democracy - which always appeared to be an impregnable bastion of the privileged classes - is starting to show cracks."
The Hamburg-based German daily Die Welt hails the fact that Pakistanis turned out to vote in high numbers despite numerous attacks by the Taliban as a victory for democracy. However, the paper's commentator fears the growing influence of the conservatives:
"Democracy is taking shape in Pakistan. But the election results could jeopardize this success. The non-islamist Muslim League may have won the majority of seats, but the influence of conservative clergymen will rise under its leadership. When the West withdraws from the region in 2014, the result might be a peace deal where the Taliban come out as the winners."
The American daily Washington Post has a similar viewpoint:
"Questions remain, however, about Sharif's stance on another key issue: violent Islamic extremism. Critics have accused his party of being soft on radicals because it hasn't cracked down on militant groups in its stronghold of Punjab province. The United States has pushed Pakistan for years to take stronger action against Islamic militants whose fighters stage cross-border attacks against American troops in Afghanistan."
The Washington Post writes about Pakistani-US relations:
"He (Sharif) is expected to seek friendly relations with the United States, which for decades has been Pakistan's principal financial patron but which remains suspicious of Pakistani motives in Afghanistan."
China's official Xinhua News Agency is wondering about the composition of Pakistan's future government. It also examines how Sharif managed to win the elections:
"The Muslim League will not be able to rule on its own and will therefore have to rely on other parties. This will inhibit the introduction of reforms. Sharif considers economic growth to be Pakistan's way of the future. After decades of political dispute, the country's economy has faced difficulties compounded by poverty and corruption. People are dissatisfied."
Xinhua considers Imran Kahn's PTI to be "a fresh breeze in Pakistan's political scene."
But also Meg Rincker, assistant professor at Purdue University Calumet in Indiana (USA), sees Khan as a beacon of hope. In her latest guest commentary in the Christian Science Monitor she states:
"Though Khan is opposed to US drone strikes, a PTI victory also benefits the US and its relationship with Pakistan in the long run. It signals a break from patronage politics as usual, and a move toward real democracy and better rights for women and minorities in Pakistan."
But also Pakistan's neighbor India has been following the elections up close. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote on his official Twitter page that he hoped to chart "a new course for the relationship" between the nuclear-armed neighbors. The English-language newspaper Times of India believes Sharif's victory may have a positive impact on bilateral relations:
"Sharif has already made it clear that he intends to take up India-Pakistan relations from where he had left them when he was ousted from power in 1999. After conducting nuclear tests in response to India's atomic blasts in 1998, Sharif had worked with his then Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee to improve relations. Talking to the media on Saturday night, Sharif said he worked hard for a detente with New Delhi before Musharraf deposed him. 'We'll pick the threads where we left. We want to move toward better relations with India, to resolve the remaining issues through peaceful means, including that of Kashmir,' he said."
But it seems that Sharif is not the only one to decide on foreign affairs, adds Times of India:
"It is Sharif's relationship with the powerful military, which sets the agenda for foreign and security policies, that will largely determine the country's future."
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV comments on the role of the military under the new government:
"Enormous pressure from the military forced Sharif to resign from his first term as prime minister in 1993. His second term ended in 1999 when he was ousted in a military coup led by Musharraf. He fled into exile in Saudi-Arabia. When he becomes prime minister for the third time, he will likely try to reduce the military's influence. Tensions are bound to rise."