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'Zardari likely to win Pak presidential polls'

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Asif Ali Zardari, who has the support of several small parties, seems set to sweep the presidential polls scheduled for Saturday, political analysts said.

world Updated: Sep 05, 2008 17:01 IST

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Asif Ali Zardari, who has the support of several small parties, seems set to sweep the presidential polls scheduled for Saturday, political analysts said on Friday.

The PPP and its allies have total strength of 349 but they are aiming for more than 500 of the total 702 votes.

"I am confident that Zardari will get more than 500 votes," PPP leader and Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told IANS.

The other two candidates for the polls are Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N) Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's and PML-Quaid's (PML-Q) journalist-turned-politician Mushahid Hussain Syed.

According to political analysts, the PML-N cannot present a serious challenge to Zardari on its own. So, it is trying to influence the other parties.

"It is not just about the numbers game. We want to show that there is opposition to the candidature of Zardari," said PML-N leader Javed Hashmi.

While the PML-N is talking of merit and morals, supported by the past history of its candidate, PPP leader and Information Minister Sherry Rehman said the party is "comfortable" with the numbers on its side.

Both houses of parliament, the Senate and National Assembly, as well as the four provincial assemblies - Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Balochistan and Sindh - make the electoral college for the presidential elections.

The upper house or Senate has 100 members, the National Assembly 342 and each of the provincial assemblies has 65 votes - equal to the Balochistan assembly that has the least number of members.

According to rules, the number of votes in other three assemblies are considered to be 65. In Punjab Assembly, which has the largest strength, 6.5 members equal one electoral vote, Sindh's 2.58 members equals one vote, North West Frontier Province's (NWFP) 1.9 members equal one vote. Balochistan is the only assembly where each legislator has one vote. This brings the total number of votes for presidential elections to 702.

The PPP has managed to get three provincial assemblies - NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan - to pass resolutions in favour of Zardari.

However, the party is facing a hurdle in Punjab, where it is in power along with archrival PML-N. The year-long romance between the two sides ended last month after Zardari refused to restore the superior court judges sacked by former military ruler Musharraf.

Both the parties are now trying to woo the PML-Q, which was in power under former president Pervez Musharraf. The PML-Q has about 100 votes in all the houses and some of the legislators have already announced support for either Zardari or Siddiqui.

However, the PML-Q leadership has accused both PPP and PML-N of indulging in horse-trading.

"The worst kind of horse-trading, rather I would say donkey-trading, is going on in Islamabad to win over our MPs," PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain told reporters.

Several smaller parties like the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) have assured Zardari of their support. However, the latest announcement by the 15 parliamentarians belonging to tribal areas to pull back their support to Zardari is being considered a setback.

Analysts said that Makhdoom Amin Fahim and other disgruntled PPP stalwarts, who were sidelined by Zardari after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, may opt to vote for his rival since the election for president's office will be held through a secret ballot.