The allegations of rigging in Wednesday’s election follow a bitter campaign in which Pakistan’s powerful military was accused of tilting the race in favor of Khan, and trying to erase democratic gains made since the last military regime ended in 2008.
Although Khan appeared likely to fall short of the 137 seats needed for a majority in the National Assembly, his better-than-expected results mean he should have no problems forming a government with a handful of small coalition partners.
One of the first tasks for Khan, once he forms the government, will be to avert a currency crisis, which follows four devaluations of the rupee currency since December, and will likely require Islamabad to seek Pakistan’s second International Monetary Fund bailout since 2013.
Provisional results released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday morning showed Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), or Pakistan Movement for Justice party, had won 110 seats out of the 251 races where counting had ended. The National Assembly has 272 seats in total.
Jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had bagged 63 seats, the results showed. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was third with 42 seats.
“(PML-N) would play the role of a strong opposition,” said Shehbaz Sharif, the PML-N president and brother of Nawaz Sharif, according to the English-language Dawn newspaper.
Khan’s party also appears to have succeeded in wresting control of the local assembly in Pakistan’s biggest province, Punjab, from the Sharifs.
The News newspaper and other local media reported PML-N is unlikely to form the government in Punjab, home to more than half of Pakistan’s 208 million people and the power base of the Sharif family for more than three decades.
Shehbaz Sharif has said the vote count was rigged and vowed to offer evidence to the ECP. Both the PML-N and PPP say their party monitors at many voting centers were either kicked out during counting or had not received the official notifications of the precinct’s results, instead being given handwritten tallies they could not verify.
Pakistan’s election monitoring body and a team from the European Union were scheduled to deliver their assessments of the conduct of the election on Friday.