Zardari gets boost in Pakistan senate election

AFP , Saturday 3 Mar 2012

The ruling Pakistan People Party secures majority in the indirectly-elected Senate elections in a boost for President Asif Ali Zerdari who encountered a string of scandals, preliminary results showed

Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani is surrounded by security personnel as he arrives at Supreme Court for a hearing in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Feb. 13. (Photo: AP)

The ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) strengthened its position in senate elections, preliminary results showed Saturday, in a boost for President Asif Ali Zardari's crisis-hit government.

Voting was held on Friday for 45 seats out of 104 in the indirectly-elected upper house of the federal parliament.

The PPP won 19 seats, increasing its majority to 41 in a much-needed boost for Zardari's weakened administration, according to unofficial results.

His government has been plunged into crisis by a string of scandals, and many expect early parliamentary elections within months in the country on the frontline of Al-Qaeda and Taliban violence.

Zardari has clashed with the powerful military over a leaked memo suggesting he sought US help to prevent a feared military coup after the killing of Osama bin Laden by American forces in Pakistan.

Further pressure was heaped on the government last month when the country's highest court charged Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani with contempt, which he has denied.

In the elections, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of the main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif secured eight new senators, who are elected by regional lawmakers.

Four went to the Karachi-based Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM).

The Awami National Party (ANP) which rules northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on the Afghan border got six, while the remaining seats were shared by smaller regional and religious parties.

The results will be confirmed next week.

Pakistani parliamentary elections are due in 2013, but opposition parties have called for early polls, blaming Zadari's government for corruption, economic decay, and a severe energy crisis.

Each of Pakistan's four provinces will have 23 seats in the next senate, with four going to the capital Islamabad and eight for the tribal areas in the northwest.

Some of the places are reserved for non-Muslim minorities, women, and Islamic scholars or technocrats.

Half the senate's current 100 members retire on 12 March  after completing their six-year terms, and the four non-Muslim minority places are being chosen for the first time, in an expansion of the chamber.

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