“Results are still coming, but there is a confirmation that PML-N will emerge as the largest party,” Sharif said. “We should thank Allah that he has given PML-N another chance to serve you and Pakistan.”
Sharif, 63, who was toppled in a coup in 1999, had been widely favored to emerge as premier, but no party appeared to have won enough votes to claim a simple majority of the 272 directly elected National Assembly seats. Analysts projected that PML-N would win at least 100 seats.
Brokering a coalition government could take weeks. In his speech, Sharif also voiced confidence that results would show by Sunday that he would have enough seats to claim the required majority. But if that doesn’t happen, he will have to turn to smaller independent parties — or seek the support of his strongest rivals, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which just ended a five-year term.
Khan’s third-party Movement for Justice and the PPP appeared in early results likely to win the same number of seats, about 35.
“If the numbers shaping up come true, this is a stunning victory for PML-N,” Cyril Almeida, a columnist for the Dawn newspaper, said on Twitter.
Khan’s campaign manager, Asad Umar, said the PML-N had triumphed. “They have emerged as the largest party,” Umar told Geo TV, Pakistan’s largest cable news channel. “I want to congratulate the party.”
The Afghan presidential palace said that they hoped that “the government that will be formed as a result of the election will create a brotherly and peaceful atmosphere with Afghanistan.” The palace said it was fully prepared to cooperate with Pakistan in the annihilation of terrorism “so that the Afghan and Pakistan fellow-brother nations can be saved from this calamity” and bring stability to the region.
Millions of exuberant Pakistanis, many voting for the first time, turned out in higher-than-expected numbers Saturday in defiance of insurgent violence aimed at sabotaging the balloting that will bring a historic transfer of power between elected governments.
Scattered gun and bomb attacks marred an otherwise celebratory day in a nation mired in economic crisis and locked in a fight with a virulent native Taliban insurgency. By the time polls closed, at least 20 people had died in attacks, the most serious targeting a pro-U.S. political party in the southern port city of Karachi.
The election commission projected that more than 60 percent of the nation’s 86 million voters cast ballots for national and provincial assemblies — a number that, if confirmed, would represent the highest turnout since 1970, when the populist PPP swept to power.