Pakistan’s Lawmakers to Elect New President This Month

Pakistan’s leading political parties nominated candidates to succeed Asif Ali Zardari as president, a largely ceremonial position since 2010 changes stripped it of powers to dismiss parliament or appoint the army chief.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif put forward Mamnoon Hussain, a party loyalist from Sindh province, for an election to be held July 30. Hussain will compete with Raza Rabbani, a senator nominated by Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, and retired judge Wajihuddin Ahmed, who has been fielded by the third biggest party in parliament, Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf.

“As far as the numbers game is concerned, Sharif’s candidate has a very clear advantage,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based political analyst in a phone interview. “Hussain does not have any individual clout so Sharif will have a free hand.”

Pakistani lawmakers in the federal parliament and four provincial assemblies will elect the next president in a secret ballot. The PML has 143 members in parliament’s dominant lower house to 33 for the PPP, according to the legislature’s website. Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, a leader of Sharif’s party, told reporters the Supreme Court had ordered the election to be held on July 30. Zardari’s term ends in September.

Constitutional changes in 2010 removed presidential powers accrued by former military leader Pervez Musharraf to dismiss the prime minister and appoint military leaders. Zardari, the widower of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who became president after Musharraf was forced to resign in 2008, remained a key player in Pakistani politics as head of the Peoples Party which led the last ruling coalition.

Economy Fight

The presidential election comes as Sharif struggles to overcome crippling energy shortages and a Taliban insurgency. The $210 billion economy expanded at an annual average of 3 percent since 2008, below the 7 percent pace the Asian Development Bank says is needed to provide jobs for an idle workforce. The budget deficit has surged to a two-decade high as revenues stalled.

Sharif’s victory in May 11 parliamentary polls kicked off a year of transition in Pakistan. General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s three-year term as army chief ends in November while Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will complete his period in office in December.

(Corrects spelling of candidate in second paragraph in story originally published July 24.)
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