The president needs a majority to push through the changes that he promised in his campaign, which include budget savings of €60 billion ($65 billion) in the next five years, cutting the number of public servants by 120,000, reforming the labor market and generous state pension schemes, bringing them into line with private schemes.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is celebrating with his supporters, amid early signs that his party will be the largest after parliamentary elections.
Media projections based on partial results suggest a big lead for Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League, and he has already claimed victory.
The election should lead to the country’s first transition from one elected government to another.
The turnout was huge but the poll was marred by violence.
In Karachi, the Pakistan Taliban said they planted a bomb which killed 11 people and wounded 40 others.
The bomb was placed outside the office of the Awami National Party.
There were also attacks in Balochistan and the north-western city of Peshawar.
Voting was extended for an hour across the country before closing at 18:00.
An election commission spokesman said they hoped for a turnout of 60-80%. In 2008 it was 44%.
No official results have yet been released, but unofficial partial results suggested that Nawaz Sharif’s party was ahead in more than 100 of the 272 directly elected parliamentary seats.
It appears that Nawaz Sharif’s party will fall short of a simple majority in the National Assembly.
But in a speech at his party headquarters in the north-eastern city of Lahore, Nawaz Sharif said that the Muslim League (PML-N) was sure to emerge as the largest party.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is celebrating with his supporters, amid early signs that his party will be the largest after parliamentary elections
“We should thank Allah that he has given PML-N [Muslim League] another chance to serve you and Pakistan.”
“I appeal for all parties to come to the table and sit with me and solve the country’s problems.”
However, the mood in the party was not one of joy, as there are so many daunting challenges facing the country.
Nawaz Sharif’s apparent victory is largely confined to his native Punjab province, which has nearly 60% of the country’s population, and so he will be compelled to look for support from the three smaller provinces for greater legitimacy.
Even if he had got as few as 90 seats he would still have been able to put together a coalition.
The prospect of Nawaz Sharif forming a new government represents a remarkable political comeback for a man deposed by General Pervez Musharraf in a coup in 1999 and subsequently put on trial and given a jail sentence.
A deal with Saudi Arabia meant he spent time in exile there before returning in 2007 to contest polls the following year.
The Movement of Justice (PTI) party of former cricketer Imran Khan has also performed well, with projections saying he had won a big victory in Peshawar.
President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is in a race for second place with the PTI, but both seem likely to win fewer than 40 seats.
Outgoing PM Raja Pervez Ashraf suffered a crushing defeat in his own seat in Rawalpindi.
The PPP hardly tried because of Taliban threats against it but also because of a lack of will as it was so unpopular.
The Pakistani Taliban threatened to carry out suicide attacks ahead of the election.
About two hours after polling started, a bomb attack was reported in Karachi, apparently targeting an Awami National Party (ANP) candidate outside the party’s political office.
Eleven people were killed and more than 40 others were wounded, police said. Local ANP candidate Amanullah Mahsud was injured but not seriously.
The attack happened in the Landhi district of Karachi, which is known for Taliban activity. Another ANP candidate and his son were shot dead close to the area last week.
The Taliban have been blamed for numerous attacks throughout the campaign on Pakistan’s three most prominent liberal parties.
The PPP along with the Karachi-based Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the ANP have been singled out for threats, and were forced to curtail their campaigning as a result.
Although Pakistan has been under civilian rule for the past five years, the military is still believed to wield considerable power.
In what appeared to be an endorsement of democracy, Pakistan’s most powerful military officer Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was filmed live on TV casting his vote in a polling booth, rather than sending it in by post as many expected.
Tens of thousands of troops had been deployed at polling stations to ensure security. In the run-up to the election, more than 100 people died in election-related violence.
Before polls opened, Pakistan sealed its borders with Iran and Afghanistan in an effort to keep foreign militants at bay. Officials said the borders would remain closed for the next three days.
Parliamentary elections are under way in Bulgaria with opinion polls predicting no outright winner.
Mass protests against low living standards and widespread corruption forced the government of the centre-right Gerb party to resign in February.
However, the run-up to Sunday’s election has been marked by voter apathy and claims of fraud.
On Saturday prosecutors said they had seized 350,000 illegal ballot papers at a printing house.
The election campaign had already been marred by revelations of illegal wiretapping of politicians.
Latest opinion polls suggested the Gerb party – headed by former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov – and its main challenger the socialist BSP party were running neck-and-neck.
Gerb has pledged to keep debts under control while the socialists say they will spend more and create jobs.
Parliamentary elections are under way in Bulgaria with opinion polls predicting no outright winner
Other parties expected to pass the 4% threshold needed to enter parliament are the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) – which represents Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish minority – the ultra-nationalist Ataka, and the centrist Bulgaria of the Citizens.
However, the prospect of an election with no outright winner has raised fears of a hung parliament and further instability in the EU’s poorest country.
Polls opened at 07:00 local time and are due to close at 20:00.
Bulgaria’s 6.9 million eligible voters can choose between 36 parties but turnout is predicted to be below 50%.
Despite the large number of parties competing, it is an election that no-one appears to want to win.
Boiko Borisov has said he would be happy to go into opposition and BSP leader Sergei Stanishev has said that if his party wins, he will not be prime minister.
Bulgaria faces a major economic and social crisis with unemployment officially close to 12% but – unofficially – over 18%.
A day before the election, prosecutors revealed they had raided a printing house near the capital Sofia and seized 350,000 ballot papers that were printed over the legally fixed number.
Sergei Stanishev described the discovery as a “scandal”.
He said it showed there had been “preparation for total falsification of the elections”.
The discovery triggered a protest by members of some opposition parties outside parliament on Saturday.
The election campaign has also been marred by revelations of illegal wiretapping of political opponents, with prosecutors pointing the finger at former Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.
More than 250 international observers will monitor Sunday’s election.
Polling stations have opened in Romania in the country’s parliamentary elections.
Opinion polls suggest a large win for the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta and Senate President Crin Antonescu.
But the result could trigger renewed political instability as Romania negotiates a vital loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Victor Ponta and so called centre-right President Traian Basescu have been bitter enemies since Ponta’s government tried to impeach the president last July.
Analysts say that, in the event of Victor Ponta’s Social Liberal Union (USL) winning, the president may ask someone other than Ponta to form a government.
President Traian Basescu has said clearly he will use his powers to appoint a prime minister “in the national interest”.
Given the enmity the president feels towards Victor Ponta and his coalition, it is hard to imagine he has the leader of the Social Liberal Union (USL) in mind.
However, any attempt to appoint someone else may result in a constitutional crisis.
If the USL wins a clear majority, analysts say the president may ask someone other than Victor Ponta from within USL to become prime minister, using the argument that the USL is not a party but a coalition.
Opinion polls in Romania suggest a large win for the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta
If the USL falls short of a majority, Traian Basescu could ask one of his allies in the Right Romania Alliance (ARD) to try to form a coalition.
Opinion polls have put the ARD in second place, but far away vs. USL.
Any prolonged political instability could unnerve markets and threaten a crucial IMF loan agreement.
Romania’s current loan agreement expires in early 2013.
President Traian Basescu barely survived July’s referendum on his impeachment after turnout fell below the 50% needed to validate the vote, even if 7.4 million people were against him.
He said Romanians had “rejected a coup” by staying away from polling stations.
The row between the two men has alarmed Romania’s EU partners and parlayzed political decision-making.
Romania and neighboring Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but Brussels has put both countries under special monitoring because of concerns about judicial independence, corruption and political influence in state institutions.
Georgia’s governing party and the opposition have both claimed victory in the country’s parliamentary elections.
Early results suggest the opposition Georgian Dream coalition, led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, had a clear lead in votes for party lists.
But President Mikheil Saakashvili said his ruling party was ahead in the race for seats decided on a first-past-the-post basis – nearly half the total.
It is seen as his biggest popularity test since he came to power in 2003.
The election could bring the first democratic transfer of power in Georgia’s post-Soviet history.
It is not yet clear when official results from Monday’s vote will be announced.
Georgia’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) said there had been no grave violations during the voting. Observers from the European security organization OSCE are due to give their verdict at 14:30.
According to the CEC’s early results, the rival blocs are running neck-and-neck in the 73 first-past-the-post constituencies.
The other 77 out of 150 parliamentary seats in total are decided by the proportional, party list method.
With 25% of the party list vote counted, Georgian Dream had secured 53%, while Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) had 41%.
Mikheil Saakashvili had sought to portray the election as a choice between his Western-leaning government, and a future in which he said Bidzina Ivanishvili would allow Russia to dominate the former Soviet republic. Bidzina Ivanishvili made his fortune in Russia in the early 1990s.
Tensions between Mikheil Saakashvili’s government and Russia escalated into a brief war in 2008 which saw Georgian troops expelled from two breakaway regions.
Thousands of cheering supporters of the opposition Georgian Dream bloc gathered to celebrate in the capital Tbilisi after the polls closed late on Monday.
“We have won! The Georgian people have won!” Bidzina Ivanishvili said in a speech broadcast on a Georgian TV station, the AFP news agency reports.
Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man, said he expected his coalition to win 100 out of 150 parliamentary seats.
In televised comments, Mikheil Saakashvili conceded the opposition “has won the majority in the proportional vote”.
But he added that “in single-mandate constituencies, the majority of votes has been secured by Georgia’s [ruling] United National Movement”.
The UNM said it believed it had secured at least 53 of the 73 seats in the single-mandate constituencies, with a party’s spokeswoman predicting that it would have “a solid majority”.
The single mandate, first-past-the-post system helps to ensure that rural voters still have a voice. An MP representing a small district in the mountains is equal to one representing a large district in Tbilisi.
Under reforms scheduled to take effect after a presidential election next year the parliament and prime minister will have more power than the president.
The Central Electoral Commission said in a statement that turnout had been around 61%.
Earlier Bidzina Ivanishvili had staged a symbolic protest by refusing to vote, saying the authorities had “already resorted to very many violations”.
If the ruling party gets back into power despite failing to secure a majority of votes, the opposition could feel cheated of victory – and spark mass protests.
The government’s reputation has taken a battering in recent weeks because of a prisoner-abuse scandal.
Videos broadcast on national television showed prison inmates being beaten and sexually abused by guards.
The scandal sparked street protests and allowed Bidzina Ivanishvili to portray the government as high-handed.
Human rights group Amnesty International says many of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s supporters were “fined, fired, harassed or detained for expressing their political views” during the election campaign.
Supreme Constitutional Court in Egypt, which dissolved the parliament last month, is due to discuss how to respond to President Mohammed Mursi’s order to reconvene it.
The speaker of the dissolved house has called for it to meet on Tuesday.
Military and judicial authorities have held emergency talks, but have not announced any action so far.
Mohammed Mursi, whose Muslim Brotherhood won most seats, said the chamber should reconvene until a new election is held.
Military police are keeping the area around the parliament building sealed.
Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court is due to discuss how to respond to President Mohammed Mursi's order to reconvene parliament dissolution
It is not clear when or how MPs are expected to reconvene.
MPs would first have to get past a line of police and military guards who have been preventing them from entering the parliament building – or they could meet elsewhere.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – which has assumed legislative power – met in an emergency session shortly after the presidential decree was issued on Sunday.
It is due to hold another meeting.
The military had enforced a court order last month dissolving parliament because party members had contested seats reserved for independents.
The SCAF took over the reins of power last year, after the revolution that ended former President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
The army move was initially welcomed by many of the anti-government protesters, but its presence became increasingly unpopular as critics accused its leaders of wanting to hold on to power.
Mohammed Mursi won the country’s first free presidential election last month, and army chiefs formally handed over power on 30 June.
But before his inauguration, the military had granted itself sweeping powers.
The commanders’ constitutional declaration stripped the president of any authority over the military, gave military chiefs legislative powers, and the power to veto the new constitution, which has yet to be drafted.
In his presidential decree, Mohammed Mursi said new parliamentary elections would be held 60 days after the constitution had been agreed by referendum, the decree said.
The Muslim Brotherhood has consistently opposed the decision to dissolve parliament.
But analysts say it is unclear whether the president has the authority to reinstate the assembly.
If there was a political truce in Egypt, it could soon be over – unless this is part of a more complicated deal, under which parliament would meet briefly then be dissolved by the president.
Right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza parties are almost neck-and-neck after Greek parliamentary elections, according to the first exit polls.
New Democracy, which broadly supports a European bailout deal, was one to two percentage points ahead of Syriza, which opposes the measure.
The outcome could decide Greece’s future inside the euro.
If the exit poll is correct, New Democracy should be able to build a majority coalition.
The government will be relatively weak, and will seek to change the terms of the bailout.
The election was the second in six weeks, called after a 6 May vote proved inconclusive.
On that occasion, each of the main parties tried but failed to form a coalition government.
New Democracy is thought to have polled between 28 and 30% of votes, with 27-28% for Syriza, one exit poll carried out jointly by five polling companies for the main TV channels showed.
An earlier version of the poll only 80% complete had the two parties virtually neck and neck, prompting fears of a hung parliament.
The latest projection would give New Democracy 127 seats, benefiting from a rule which gives the leading party 50 extra seats in the 300-seat chamber.
Right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Syriza parties are almost neck-and-neck after Greek parliamentary elections, according to the first exit polls
It gave the centre-left Pasok, its potential coalition partner, 32 seats, enough for a majority in the 300-seat parliament, with Syriza gaining 72 seats.
New Democracy could also invite a small left-wing party, Democratic Left, to join the coalition to reflect some of the anti-bailout feeling in the country.
With such a strong showing by Syriza, Greece could be in for an autumn of discontent by opponents of the bailout deal.
Another poll for a separate TV station gave Syriza a marginal lead.
Coalition talks will be expected to start on Monday.
Several smaller anti-bailout parties are expected to get between 13 and 21 seats.
Sunday’s vote is being watched around the world, amid fears that a Greek exit from the euro could spread contagion to other eurozone members and send turmoil throughout the global economy.
Tough austerity measures were attached to the two international bailouts awarded to Greece, an initial package worth 110 billion Euros ($138 billion) in 2010, then a follow-up last year worth 130 billion Euros.
Many Greeks are unhappy with the conditions attached to deals which have been keeping the country from bankruptcy.
Polls have shown most Greeks favor staying in the euro and all the main parties except the communist KKE say they will keep Greece in the single currency, but Syriza believes it can renegotiate the bailout deal.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has warned that rejection of the bailout would lead to a return to the drachma, but correspondents say a very large number of Greeks appear to have defied this pressure.
“Greeks voted with emotion and not with reason, this is why you see these numbers,” New Democracy supporter Evangelos Datsos told Reuters news agency after the initial exit polll results came through.
But Syriza supporters were confident of victory.
There is a subdued atmosphere in the Greek capital on Sunday night, with many people just at home, watching nervously on television.
Greeks are proud and therefore private when it comes to explaining their fears to foreigners, our correspondent says, but behind closed doors they are worried about what this means for their country and their futures.
France is voting in a second round of parliamentary elections seen as crucial for President Francois Hollande’s reform agenda.
Socialist Francois Hollande, who was elected last month, is seeking a solid left-wing majority in the lower house.
He has promised to hire more public workers and to refocus EU fiscal efforts from austerity to “growth”.
Socialists and their left-wing allies won 46% in last Sunday’s first round, against 34% for the centre-right UMP.
Nationwide, the turnout was a modest 57%. France’s 46 million eligible voters are picking representatives for 577 seats in the National Assembly.
After the first round, 36 seats out of 577 were declared in constituencies where the winner got more than 50% of the vote. Socialists and their allies won 25 of those seats.
France is voting in a second round of parliamentary elections seen as crucial for President Francois Hollande's reform agenda
The French Senate is already under the control of the Socialists and their allies following elections in 2011.
The Socialist Party has concluded electoral pacts with the smaller Europe Ecology/The Greens (EELV) as well as the Radical Left party – with marginal candidates withdrawing from the second round in order not to split the left-wing vote in individual constituencies.
The vote is also seen as a key test for the anti-immigration National Front (FN), which took 13.6% in the first round.
The FN – which has no nationally elected representative – is hoping to take a number of seats, notably for its leader Marine Le Pen in the northern town of Henin Beaumont.
Another closely watched race will be in La Rochelle in the west. Official Socialist candidate Segolene Royal – who is also Francois Hollande’s former partner – is standing against a dissident left-winger, Olivier Falorni, who defied the national leadership and maintained his candidacy.
In a well-publicized twist in the past week, Francois Hollande’s current partner, Valerie Trierweiler, expressed her support for Olivier Falorni in a tweet.
On the right, the UMP of former President Nicolas Sarkozy has concluded an electoral agreement with its centrist Radical Party and New Centre allies.
The start of Francois Hollande’s term has been dominated by the eurozone crisis. In his month since taking office, he has taken part in a series of summits urging his EU partners to engage in stimulus spending and to consider eurobonds.
His government is due to present a revised budget plan to parliament next month.
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