Imran Khan is on course to become Pakistan’s new prime minister, early results from the country’s election suggest.
With nearly half the votes counted from July 25election, the ex-cricket star’s PTI party is in the lead.
It is expected to fall short of an overall majority and to seek coalition partners. Officials deny claims of vote rigging made by Imran Khan’s rivals.
With votes counted in 47% of stations, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party was leading in 113 of the 272 National Assembly constituencies being contested, Pakistan’s Dawn Newspaper reported, citing Election Commission figures.
Oxford-educated Imran Khan, who led Pakistan to victory in cricket’s World Cup in 1992, first entered politics in 1996 but struggled for years on the political sidelines. In the lead-up to this vote, the 65-year-old faced accusations that he was benefiting from military interference against his rivals.
Campaigning has been marred by violence. On voting day a bomb killed 31 people at a polling station.
This election will mark only the second time that a civilian government has handed power to another after serving a full term in Pakistan.
However, the party of disgraced former PM Nawaz Sharif has rejected the results, as have a host of smaller parties, all alleging vote-rigging and manipulation.
The party of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto, the historically liberal PPP, is widely expected to come third.
The party is now fronted by Benazir Bhutto’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a 29-year-old Oxford University graduate.
The turnout has been estimated at between 50% and 55% out of 106 million registered voters, AFP reports.