07/25/2018, 13.36
PAKISTAN
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Suicide attack during Pakistani elections as three race for power

The blast hit an hour ago in Quetta, in the province of Balochistan. The voters will choose 272 candidates from the Parliamentary Assembly, as well as representatives of the provinces and the government. To win, the first party needs 172 seats. The prospects after the vote.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Polls opened this morning in Pakistan. At least 106 million people are called to elect the next prime minister and the composition of the Parliamentary Assembly, in a country marked in recent months by numerous corruption scandals and a latent Islamic fundamentalism.

Despite the climate of strict security to prevent attacks, about an hour ago a suicide bombing took place in near Quetta’s NA-260 constituency. The provisional toll speaks of at least 31 victims and wounded; both civilians and soldiers.

Many had expressed satisfaction with a vote which, at least in the early hours of the day, was without incident. There are 85 thousand  polling stations which opened at 8 (local time) and will remain open until 6 pm, while the results will be announced within 24 hours.

The government has deployed 372 thousand soldiers to guarantee secuirty. The measure was necessary because of the recent terrorist attacks that have sown panic in several electoral rallies. The bloodiest, which took place in the Balochistan province just over a week after the vote, caused the death of about 150 people.

Voters must choose the composition of the Lower House of the Assembly and the four provincial assemblies. Out of a total of 342 seats, 272 will be assigned directly to this round, while the remaining 70 (60 for women and 10 for religious minorities) will be divided proportionately according to their preferences.

According to the Electoral Commission, about 30 parties submitted the nomination of 3,459 contenders for the 272 seats at the federal level and another 8,396 for the 577 seats of the four provinces (Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

Analysts believe that the most important challenge is in Punjab, the most populous province in the country and one of the biggest contenders: Shahbaz Sharif, 66, current chief minister and brother of the outgoing premier Nawaz Sharif, sentenced to 10 of prison for the purchase and sale of some luxury apartments in London and ousted last year from politics with his daughter Maryam Nawaz.

In Shahbaz, his brother left the leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which has ruled over the past five years. But many believe that without the key figure of Nawaz, the party has little chance of earning the 172 seats needed to form the government.

Imran Khan, 65, former cricket player and leader of Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pti), a popular party born in the 1990s, is the main contender, and already designated as the next head of government. He has only recently emerged as a "credible" political force from the point of view of electoral weight thanks to the sympathies of extremist groups and radical fringes of the army.

His closeness to senior military figures have raised doubts about illegal practices of manipulation of election results. According to the supporters of Nawaz Sharif, the army and Imran Khan are behind the corruption sentence imposed on the outgoing premier.

The third and last candidate to the leadership of the country is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 29, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), son of the murdered Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Faced with a massive electoral campaign, fought by the candidates village by village, several experts have doubts about a real change in the country in a democratic sense. For some, the handover will not automatically guarantee economic and political stability. At the same time, the difficult conditions in which women and the poor live and the resistance of a conservative mentality, especially in rural areas, are underlined.

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