Results of individual races are beginning to trickle in hours after full results were expected to be announced
Pakistan will have to wait until Thursday evening for official results to be announced, election officials have said, a full 24 hours after polls closed on Wednesday evening.
With less than half of the vote counted, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is ahead in projected partial results, leading in 100 seats, to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN)’s 68 seats.
Most projections have the PTI winning between 107 and 120 seats, short of the 137 seats needed to form a majority government, meaning the PTI may have to make a deal with some of the nation’s smaller parties.
The Pakistani stock market is up nearly 2% this morning, potentially a sign of confidence in the predicted result
Though results are not official, Khan supporters have been celebrating overnight, with a PTI spokesman copping criticism for calling Imran Khan “prime minister” and congratulating him on his victory while counting was still underway in more than half the constituencies.
There have been widespread allegations of election rigging, with party officials claiming voting irregularities, including that polling agents were not allowed into polling stations and voters were not given forms on time.
The election commissioner has denied any allegations of tampering, saying the elections were “100% fair and transparent”.
Election day was best with violence: at least 31 people were killed on Wednesday in a suicide attack outside a ballot station in Quetta and others were killed in shooting attacks around the country.
About 106 million registered voters were eligible to vote before polls closed at 6pm local time.
A potential flashpoint is the report of the EU election observer mission, which has been in Pakistan monitoring the election. They are due to give a press conference tomorrow. If the EU mission says the vote was rigged, as six major parties claim, protests could be hard to contain.
Some are pointing to the months-long street protest held by Imran Khan’s months-long “dharna” after the 2013 election, on the basis of much flimsier allegations of ballot-fixing (crucially, not shared by other parties). Yet that protest was granted space by Pakistan’s army, which tacitly approved.
A similar PMLN-led protest could face the same pressure tactics as its largest campaign rally on the streets of Lahore, when hundreds of party workers were arbitrarily arrested.
If the losing parties unite, they might have the strength to face the so-called “establishment”. But according to analyst Fasi Zaka, “if the [third-placed] PPP are ensured a winning tally in Sindh, they are unlikely to follow through with protests.”
Shehbaz Sharif, the PMLN leader, also tends to shy away from conflict with the army – unlike his imprisoned brother, and party founder, Nawaz. As of this morning, there are few signs of spontaneous protest. It’s early days though.