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The vote potentially paves the wave for a return to power for the embattled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif has been at odds with the country's judiciary since the high court forced him from power last year.
Pakistan's ruling party appears to have regained control of parliament's upper house — the Senate — after a day of secret voting by members of the federal parliament and representatives from four provincial assemblies, according to local media reports.
The strong showing for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party could reinvigorate the political fortunes of embattled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who has been at odds with the judiciary since the Supreme Court abruptly ended his grip on power last July when they disqualified him from office due to undeclared assets.
"PMLN now the single largest party in Senate as well, Masha'Allah," tweeted Sharif's daughter and presumed heir, Maryam Nawaz Sharif.
PML-N backed-candidates won 15 of 52 seats being contested, surpassing Pakistan's Peoples Party (PPP) as the biggest group in Senate, the Geo TV channel reported. PPP candidates won just 12 seats. The PML-N hasn't controlled the Senate in 18 years.
PML-N is expected to take de facto control of the 104-seat chamber with the cooperation of allied parties. The newly-elected senators are due to serve six-year terms.
Clashing with the judiciary
National elections are due later this year and PML-N's renewed control of the Senate could allow them to amend the constitution to enable Sharif to hold office again. The party hasn't spoken about amending the constitution but it has been at odds with the judiciary since the Supreme Court ousted Sharif from power.
The high court further wounded Sharif's political ambitions last month by disqualifying Sharif as head of the PML-N - a political party he founded. Sharif has been highly critical of the courts, accusing them of conspiring to damage his party and the country's civilian leaders.
Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who won a seat in the capital, Islamabad, told journalists that the win validates Sharif's political narrative with voters.
Despite the results, there is still some uncertainty over how well PML-N has done because some of the candidates were barred from running under the party's banner after Sharif was removed from office. Those candidates, who will be running as "independents" are expected to pledge their allegiance to the PML-N if they are elected to the Senate, according to PML-N officials.
Pakistan's constituion requires a bill to pass both the upper and lower houses of parliament in order to become law.
Unlike the last Senate election in 2015, lawmakers were prohibited from taking their phones into the assemblies during the vote.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is expected to announce offical results on Sunday.
bik/rc (Reuters, dpa)