In an election that provided few surprises, legislators elected Pakistani Peoples Party candidate Asif Ali Zardari to be the new President of Pakistan. The unofficial count went much as expected, with Zardari capturing 479 out of 702 votes. Besides winning the federal parliament by a wide margin, he had unanimous support in the Sindh assembly and also gained the vast majority of the votes in both Balochistan and the North West Frontier Provinces assemblies, and while several tribal legislators had threatened to pull their support from his party’s coalition government over the continued military offensive in Swat Valley, it does not appear that they withdrew their support for his candidacy. He did however lose the vote in the Punjab assembly to rival candidate and retired justice Saeeduzaman Siddique, an assembly in which the opposition PML-N maintains a rather large plurality.
The PML-N said they would accept the results of the vote, and top party figure Nawaz Sharif said the PML-N would accept Zardari’s mandate and would not attempt to destabilize his government. Zardari was also congratulated by former Interior Minister and sole federal MP of the breakaway PPP-S, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, who said his election would ensure stability in the country.
President Zardari’s most pressing task will be to restore investor confidence in Pakistan’s faltering economy, with inflation topping 24% and its national debt judged as among the world’s riskiest. A difficult task with his long history of corruption allegations, and a task for which he appears to hold little interest.
Prior to the election, Zardari had said that his first act as President would be to amend the Constitution in an attempt to balance the powers of the President. The previous President Pervez Musharraf altered Pakistan’s Constitution to give himself enormous power, and Zardari has suggested the President should not be able to dissolve parliament.