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EU criticizes pre-election conditions in Pakistan

July 27, 2018

EU observers have said conditions for fair elections in Pakistan worsened since the last vote in 2013. Final counts point to a result that is insufficient for Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf party to govern alone.

Imran Khan (R) speaks with his party spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry
Image: AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan vote - EU election observer Gahler talks to DW

Following two days of vote counting, the Pakistani Election Commission formally declared that Imran Khan's party was the winner of the country's parliamentary elections. EU observers concluded on Friday that the results were "credible," but criticized a "lack of equality" in the contest and said that the playing field was more uneven since the last vote in 2013.

"Although there were several legal provisions aimed at ensuring a level playing field, we have concluded that there was a lack of equality and opportunity," Michael Gahler, chief observer of the EU Election Observation Mission, said at a press conference.

In its initial findings, the EU concluded that the Pakistani elections were relatively transparent, but raised the alarm on unfair pre-election practices.

Pre-poll curbs on media and a crackdown on Pakistan Muslim League party's (PML-N) activists and officials were noticeable, Michael Gahler told DW, emphasizing that the pre-election environment matters.

At the packed press conference in Islamabad, Gahler said that the 2018 elections had been worse than in 2013, but ascertained that the Pakistani military had not interfered in the voting process, DW correspondent Naomi Conrad reported.

The EU mission deployed 120 monitors across Pakistan, who visited 582 polling stations in 113 different constituencies.

Read more: Opinion: Imran Khan's dangerous victory

Official results: what we know so far

The vote was the country's third consecutive civilian government election, where voters could choose lawmakers for the Pakistani National Assembly and its four provincial parliaments, in a parliamentary system that is modeled after the UK.

  • While 11 seats are still to be determined, the patterns are irreversible. Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf party had obtained 115 seats in the National Assembly, certainly falling short of the 137 seats needed to govern with a majority.
  • His nearest rival, Shahbaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League, won 63 seats and the left-of-center Pakistan People's party, led former PM Benazir Bhutto's son Bilawal Bhutto, came in third with 43 seats.
  • Pakistan's National Assembly has 342 seats but only 272 are directly elected by voters. Three seats were uncontested and the remainder are reserved for women and minorities.

Tehreek-e-Insaf spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said that work to build the governing coalition was already underway and that the party would consider both independents and allies, in a process that could take several days.

Sharif concedes

Despite initially rejecting Khan's win and alleging that vote rigging had taken place, Shahbaz Sharif's Muslim League accepted the results on Friday. Sharif is still behind bars on corruption charges, after being detained upon his return to Pakistan on the eve of the election.

Read more: Pakistan: Imran Khan promises change amid rigging complaints

"We are going to sit on opposition benches, despite all the reservations," said Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, a parliamentarian, and the son of Shahbaz Sharif.

Although rights groups and minorities had expressed worries of radical religious groups winning seats, results point to moderate voices having generally prevailed. None of the 265 candidates fielded by the outlawed extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba managed to secure a seat.

Although banned, Lashkar-e-Taiba candidates had campaigned under a little-known Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek party to avoid association with their own group, which would disqualify them.

jcg/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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