PM Imran Khan's party bags majority in Pakistan's Kashmir election

Prime Minister Imran Khan's party is leading with 24 seats out of a total 45. PHOTO: REUTERS

MUZAFFARABAD, PAKISTAN (REUTERS) - Pakistan's ruling party of Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared to be winning in a tight race to elect the regional assembly in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where two poll workers from Mr Khan's party were killed on Sunday (July 25), officials said.

Mr Khan's party is leading with 24 seats out of a total 45, said Mr Raja Azhar Iqbal, a focal person for local election commission.

But Mr Khan's top adviser Shahbaz Gill declared victory in a tweet saying his party has won 26 seats.

Unofficial estimates of the results started coming in late Sunday, Mr Iqbal said, adding that the election commission will make a formal announcement on Monday.

Supporters of Mr Khan's ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party and opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP) clashed in one constituency, leading to the two deaths, police officer Mohammad Shabir told Reuters by phone.

He said the deceased belonged to the ruling party.

Four soldiers in a rapid response team involved in securing the poll also died when their vehicle plunged into a ravine in the mountainous area, the army said. Three more were injured.

The violence mars the latest election test for Mr Khan, who has faced growing criticism since his 2018 election win over his handling of the economy and competence to deliver on his election promises.

Typically, the Kashmir vote has been won by the country's ruling party. Analysts said this race was tighter than usual.

More than 700 candidates from Pakistan's three major political parties, which also include the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), alongside two local groups are running for 45 seats, a local election commission official Nasir Jan said.

The PPP appears to be leading with 10 seats while the PML-N has six, Iqbal, the election commission's focal person said, adding that two seats seemed to be going to the local groups.

About 3.2 million people are registered to vote, he said.

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