Allies of Jailed Former PM Nab Surprise Victory in Pakistan Election

Independent candidates aligned with jailed former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan claimed victory in the country’s February 8 elections, stunning the powerful Pakistani military, which reportedly threw its support behind another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and his centre-right Pakistan Muslim League Party.

Independents backed by Khan officially secured 93 seats of the 266 up for grabs. This was the most of any group, but short of the 169 needed for a majority in Pakistan’s National Assembly, where a further 70 seats are reserved for women and minorities. Sharif’s party won 75 seats and is now jockeying to forge a coalition with the centre-left Pakistan People’s Party, which won 54 seats.

Suvolaxmi Dutta Choudhury, APF Canada’s South Asia Program Manager, told Asia Watch that as efforts to cobble together a coalition begin in earnest, “concerns about political instability and violent protests loom large.”

Attacks, alleged vote-rigging mar election

Small, peaceful rallies cropped up across the country after the vote. Khan’s supporters and independents protested what they viewed as vote-rigging by the Election Commission of Pakistan to prevent them from achieving a decisive majority. In Rawalpindi, police fired tear gas into crowds, while in Lahore, riot police charged at protesters. A day before the election, two bombings at political offices in southwest Pakistan killed 30 people.

Global Affairs Canada issued a statement condemning incidents of electoral violence in Pakistan and registered concerns about “the lack of a free, fair and transparent democratic process.” The U.S. echoed these concerns, while the EU called for an investigation into “all reported election irregularities.”

A hung parliament only adds to the country’s list of woes, including considerable debt, shrinking foreign reserves, and a 28-per-cent inflation rate.

Indonesia’s election leaves big shoes to fill

Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, held elections of its own yesterday, with official results expected to trickle in over the next few weeks. More than 800,000 polling stations — 40 times the number of stations typically administered by Elections Canada — were set up for Indonesia’s 200 million registered voters.

Indonesians under 40 make up 52 per cent of all voters and thus play an important role in picking not only Indonesia's next president but executive and legislative officials across the country. After 10 years in office, Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s popular incumbent president, is stepping down due to term limits. Jokowi, as he’s known, is expected to be succeeded by 72-year-old Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s defence minister. Jokowi’s eldest son is Prabowo’s vice-presidential running mate.

Prabowo had hovered at around 51 per cent in pre-election voter surveys, putting him just above the threshold required to win the presidency outright and avoid a run-off vote.