PTI becomes largest party despite losing key seat in Pakistan’s senate polls

Islamabad, Mar 3 (efe-epa).- The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party became the single largest party in the Pakistani senate on Wednesday after elections on 37 seats in the 100-member upper house of the parliament, despite losing a prestigious seat to the opposition in capital Islamabad.

As per unofficial results aired by local broadcasters, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government seemed set to secure a majority in the upper house – key to passing important legislations – along with its allies.

The PTI was reported to have won 18 seats, while the opposition parties Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PMLN) and Pakistan People’s Party won 5 and 8 seats respectively.

However, in a blow to the government, joint opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani won the hotly contested general seat from Islamabad beating PTI’s Abdul Hafeez Shaikh – the current finance minister – with 5 votes.

Gilani secured 169 votes compared to Shaikh’s 164 votes among 343 members of the lower house, even though the PTI managed to win on another seat from the capital region.

This upset has stoked speculation that the opposition might bring a no-confidence motion against the government in the national assembly, the lower house of the parliament.

“The fake mandate is taken back. You (Imran Khan) have no justification to keep occupying the prime minister house anymore,” PMLN Vice president Maryam Nawaz tweeted, referring to the PTI victory general elections held in 2018.

The senate’s total seats had been reduced to 100 from 104 after the merger of tribal areas with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Wednesday’s elections – set to elect half of the senate as part of a rotational system – were held on 37 seats, as 11 Senators from Punjab were elected unopposed.

Until now, Khan’s coalition government did not have a majority in the Senate to pass legislations – including legal reforms sought by global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Due to this, the government had to resort to passing interim legislation through presidential ordinances, which expire in 120 days.

Pakistan’s four provincial assemblies and the lower house of parliament form the electoral college for the senate elections, which are held every three years for half of the chamber’s strength.

The PTI already occupies seven seats in the upper house, with these members’ term set to expire in 2024. EFE


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