Regardless of the outcome, the vote will represent a political maturity landmark for Pakistan: The new government will be the first to replace an elected leadership that managed to serve out its full mandate.

The ruling Pakistan People's Party concludes an unimpressive five years at the helm, with its most notable accomplishment being that it avoided ouster. And that, analysts say, is thanks largely to the candidate seen as front-runner, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League faction. Breaking with political tradition, Sharif counseled those impatient with his bloc and President Asif Ali Zardari to let voters’ choices run their course.

Rule of law also gained traction with a Pakistani court’s decision last week barring former President Pervez Musharraf from seeking political office again. Musharraf, whose 1999 coup cut short Sharif’s earlier prime ministerial stint, returned from four years of self-imposed exile in March with hopes of staging a political comeback.

One potential spoiler for Sharif’s return to power is the candidacy of charismatic cricket star Imran Khan, wildly popular with younger Pakistanis whom he has roused with calls to clean up the country’s legendary corruption. The one political faction not threatened by the Taliban, Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party have been able to draw large and enthusiastic crowds to public events without fear of attack.

 

Mubarak in the dock, again, for retrial on protesters' deaths

Saturday, May 11 -- The suspended retrial of ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak is expected to resume, once again probing his alleged complicity in the deaths of nearly 900 protesters during the "Arab Spring" uprising that drove him from power.

Mubarak, now 85, was convicted in June 2011 for his role in the killings attributed to his security forces and vigilante supporters. He was given a life sentence, but an appeals court in January struck down the conviction and punishment and ordered a new trial. The conviction and sentence of his former interior minister, Habib Adli, also were vacated.

Mubarak’s lawyers sought to secure his release pending the new proceedings but were thwarted by the imposition of fresh charges alleging corruption -- accusations that were rejected in his first trial a year ago.

Some who suffered under Mubarak’s authoritarian rule welcome a second chance for prosecutors to argue that he deserves the death penalty for ordering, condoning or ignoring the brutality that marked his 30 years in power. Others, though, fear that a judiciary still riddled with Mubarak appointees might issue a softer verdict, perhaps even acquittal.

President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters have criticized the judiciary for several recent acquittals of influential figures from the Mubarak regime.

On April 13, Judge Mustafa Hassan Abdullah delayed Mubarak’s retrial when he withdrew from the case the day it was to start, saying that he felt “unease” presiding over the matter. Mubarak opponents had sought the removal of Abdullah after he acquitted 25 of the ex-dictator’s loyalists of charges they attacked protesters in a mounted raid atop camels and horses.