KARACHI • Former cricket star Imran Khan has declared victory in Pakistan's election, boosting stocks as investors bet he would be able to form a stable government that could address the country's financial woes after a vote tarred by rigging allegations.
Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), or Movement for Justice, said it has emerged as the single largest party and can form the federal government, Mr Naeem ul Haq, a PTI leader, told reporters yesterday in Islamabad as long-delayed counting continued. The results had been due by around 5am yesterday (Singapore time).
An unofficial tally from the Dawn newspaper last night showed the PTI leading in 98 seats, but it needs 137 to clinch a majority in the 272-member Parliament.
The 65-year-old Mr Khan could strike deals with independent lawmakers to form a coalition, if his party falls short of a majority.
Jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was trailing with 49 seats, and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), 23 seats, with the rest of the few declared seats split among smaller parties. Both PML-N and the PPP denounced irregularities in the elections.
In a victory speech, Mr Khan acknowledged that fixing the economy was the greatest challenge, and said he would implement wide-ranging reforms.
GOOD FOR INVESTORS
A PTI victory that comes very close to an absolute majority is, at this stage, the most positive outcome for long-term investors interested in seeing better economic governance in Pakistan.
MR HASNAIN MALIK, the Dubai-based head of equity research at Exotix Capital.
He also called for improved trade ties and peace talks with rival neighbour India, and said the two countries needed to end the blame game over the disputed and split region of Kashmir, which both claim in its entirety.
"I assure that if India takes one step forward, we will take two steps forward," Mr Khan said in a televised broadcast yesterday.
Pakistan's next leader will urgently need to deal with a mounting economic crisis: Four currency devaluations since December have made it likely that the next government will seek another International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. Pakistan's benchmark stock index rose as much as 1.9 per cent, poised to hit its highest level since June 21.
"The completion of the election clears the path for the IMF negotiation, which is what, in the short term, investors care most about," said Mr Hasnain Malik, the Dubai-based head of equity research at Exotix Capital. "A PTI victory that comes very close to an absolute majority is, at this stage, the most positive outcome for long-term investors interested in seeing better economic governance in Pakistan."
Mr Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, told reporters in Lahore that the PML-N rejected the poll results after its officials were kicked out of polling stations.
"This is the most dirty election in Pakistan's history," Mr Mushahid Hussain, a PML-N leader, said at a press conference in Lahore.
"This is not an election, but a selection. Someone is being installed, someone is being removed."
PPP co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zadari expressed similar concerns on Twitter.
Election Commission secretary Babar Yaqoob said results were delayed because the agency's results transmission system - in use for the first time in Pakistan - broke down due to pressure overloads.