Sharif’s party has edge in Pakistan’s delayed election results

The results of Pakistan’s elections are trickling in after an hours-long delay on Friday, a day after the vote that was marred by sporadic violence, a mobile phone service shutdown and the sidelining of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party.

The Election Commission of Pakistan announced about 60 results for the 266 seats of the National Assembly or lower house of the parliament by noon, showing the party of the country’s three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had an edge over others.

The remaining results were to be announced by the evening, officials said.

Earlier, local media reported victories of dozens of independents backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) after the imprisoned Khan was disqualified from contesting the vote because of criminal convictions he contends were politically motivated.

CORRECTION Pakistan Elections
Cameramen film a big screen showing results of country’s parliamentary elections at the Pakistan Election Commission headquarters in Islamabad (Anjum Naveed/AP)

PTI could not hold rallies or open campaign offices, and its online events were blocked, steps it contended were unfair.

The chief election commissioner had previously said the results would be communicated to the oversight body by the early hours of Friday and released to the public after that. But it started happening only on midday local time on Friday.

The Interior Ministry attributed the delay to a “lack of connectivity” resulting from security precautions.

Many Pakistani news channels reported that PTI-backed independents were giving the other big parties, led by Mr Sharif and political dynasty scion Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, a run for their money by striding ahead in dozens of constituencies.

There are 266 seats up for grabs in the National Assembly, with a further 70 reserved for women and minorities. If no party wins an outright majority, the one with the biggest share of the seats can form a coalition government.

Pakistan Elections
Police officers stand guard at the main entrance of the sports complex, where the regional office of the election commission is located to compile the country’s parliamentary elections, in Peshawar, Pakistan (Muhammad Sajjad/AP)

Mr Sharif struck a confident and defiant note on polling day, brushing off suggestions his Pakistan Muslim League party might not win an outright majority in the parliament. But the mood outside his headquarters was different by nightfall, with sparse crowds and no festivities.

He returned to the country last October after four years of self-imposed exile abroad to avoid serving prison sentences. Within weeks of his return, his convictions were overturned, leaving him free to seek a fourth term in office.

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