Nawaz Sharif, forced out as Pakistan’s prime minister in 1993 for economic mismanagement and alleged corruption, appeared poised today to return to office after an election marked by a record low voter turnout.
With 85 of the 217 races for the National Assembly decided in early returns, Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League had won 62 seats to three seats won by the Pakistan People’s Party of ousted Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The election was ordered after President Farooq Leghari dismissed Bhutto in November for alleged corruption and abuse of power.
Although results were still preliminary, Sharif claimed victory. He told supporters in Lahore that reports from his party’s poll workers showed that the Pakistan Muslim League would win a parliamentary majority, allowing him to form a government without seeking coalition partners.
Bhutto’s supporters alleged election fraud. Bhutto had vowed to reject the results if she lost.
Sources speaking at Bhutto’s home in the village of Naudero in the southern province of Sindh said she would hold a meeting of party leaders in Islamabad on Wednesday to decide on a strategy.
In early returns, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Justice Movement had won no seats.
A breakaway faction of the Pakistan People’s Party led by Ghanva Bhutto, widow of Bhutto’s slain brother Murtaza, had also failed to gain a seat.
Independent election observers reported no serious irregularities but noted a general apathy,reflected in the 26% voter turnout.
“I don’t give a damn about voting,” said Lahore resident Mohammed Abdul. "[Politicians] get elected. They make promises about roads. Then they never build the roads.”