Polls close in Pakistan following earlier bomb blast | News | DW | 11.05.2013
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Polls close in Pakistan following earlier bomb blast

Election polls have closed in Pakistan after a campaign of violence targeting election candidates. A deadly bomb blast hit the commercial hub of the country, Karachi, earlier in the day.

Pakistanis finished voting on Saturday in an historic election that will see the first transition of civilian governments in the country's history.

The run-up to the poll had been marred by violence, with at least 130 people killed, mostly candidates and workers from secular parties. The latest attack came as voting began, with at least 11 people killed when a bomb exploded outside the offices of the secular Awami National Party (ANP). Dozens more were reported to have been were injured.

Several injuries were also reported when a bomb exploded in Peshawar, with female voters apparently targeted.

In the region of North Waziristan, there were reports that women had been told by local officials that they were not allowed to vote.

High turnout expectations

Despite the violence, Pakistan's Electoral Commission expected turnout, which was about 30 percent at midday, to be as high as 60 percent.

Voters are electing 272 members of the National Assembly, with any party needing 137 seats to win a simple majority. However, a further 70 seats are reserved for women and members of nonreligious minorities, meaning that 172 seats in all would be needed to obtain an overall majority.

The ANP, along with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, is part of a secular liberal coalition led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which has become increasingly unpopular amid allegations of corruption. All three parties have been targeted by the Taliban, which claims the poll is un-Islamic.

Although former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) has been tipped to win the election, the Movement for Justice Party (PTI) of former cricket star Imran Khan has enjoyed a late surge in support.

More than 86 million Pakistanis are eligible to vote, with opinion polls suggesting there will be a larger turnout compared to the 44 percent who showed up for the last elections.

rc/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)