Sharif looks to return to power after Pakistan elections | News | DW | 13.05.2013
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Sharif looks to return to power after Pakistan elections

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looks set to return to power, according to exit polls. He and his colleagues face the tough challenge of tackling Pakistan's economic woes, energy problems and violence.

The first official announcements for National Assembly seats, listed on the Election Commission's web site early Monday, showed Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had won 72 of the first 136 seats announced.

Sharif declared victory as early as Saturday, just hours after the election ended, as exit polls suggested the PML-N had taken a strong lead.

"God has blessed us with this victory, now pray that God also bless us with majority," Sharif said in Lahore late Saturday.

A stunning comeback

The result marks a comeback for Sharif, who has been Pakistan's prime minister twice before. He ruled from 1990 to 1993 and again from 1997 to 1999, when he was ousted by a military coup.

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Set to win

Sharif faced a tough challenge from former cricket star Imran Khan, who garnered support from Pakistan's youths by criticizing the country's traditional politicians. Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party didn't fair as well as expected, but more young people got involved in the process as a result. He conceded defeat on Sunday but celebrated the high voter turnout among the younger generation.

"There are victories and defeats, but the pain of this defeat was all gone when I looked at the enthusiasm among the youth," Khan said in a video message broadcast by most Pakistani broadcasters.

It remains unclear how many seats Khan's party and the Pakistan People's Party, which held power before the vote, will win in the assembly. Official results, according to an official at the Election Commission, could take a few days.

Sharif promised on Sunday that the PML-N would respect the mandates of other parties, regardless of the results.

"I will appeal to everyone ... to come and sit with me on table to end load shedding [power outages], joblessness, poverty and inflation," Sharif said.

The PML-N requires more than half of the 272 assembly seats in order to secure a simple majority.

Tough tasks ahead

The new government faces a daunting task in tackling Pakistan's problems. The country is suffering from an energy crisis that sees some regions going without power for up to 18 hours a day.

Government finances, moreover, have been stripped down by the need to provide energy subsidies to failing public firms.

In addition to economic problems, the country has been plagued by shootings and bomb attacks by Taliban insurgents.

The militants have used violence in recent months to try and undermine the election process because they believe Pakistan's democracy runs counter to the laws of Islam.

Such attacks continued even on election day, taking aim at party workers and voters and claiming 28 lives.

Despite the attacks and the pre-election violence, Pakistanis turned out to usher in the country's first democratic transfer of power.

Turnout was estimated at 60 percent – one of the highest ever and up 16 percent from turnout for general elections in 2008.

tm/jm (AFP AP, dpa)

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