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Pakistan awaits new coalition government
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The newly winning Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is seeking the formation of a new coalition government after it won the general elections on Wednesday, but the post-election scenario remains misty.

According to unofficial results for the 267 seats in the National Assembly, the PPP won 88, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, secured 65 and the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) is on the third position with 42. Other parties and independents shared the remaining 72.

The official election results will be released on March 1, local TV reported on Wednesday.

The PPP won most seats partly attributable to the sympathy votes for the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007. The largest party in Pakistan now needs coalition partners to form a new government.

In the coming days, the parties will conduct intense negotiations in a reconciliatory manner.

The PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari said Tuesday that he was contacting with all parties, primarily with PML-N, on the formation of a coalition government. Zardari will hold meeting with Sharif on Thursday in Islamabad. Meanwhile, Zardari met with a top aid of President Prevez Musharraf.

If the PPP joins hands with Sharif's party, they will bring great challenges to Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup.

Bhutto's widower Zardari and Sharif both on Tuesday urged Musharraf to step down since the PML-Q was defeated in the elections. But Musharraf has dismissed the possibility of resignation.

"Not only we, but the whole nation is reminding Pervez Musharraf to resign," said Zardari at a news conference, "The PML-Q has lost. Now we'll take this demand of resignation to the Parliament."

Even so, some analysts say that there are ideological differences between the PPP and Sharif's party, which might make a coalition difficult.

In the short term, the two parties stand together to deal with Musharraf; but in the long term, they are expected to see unavoidable difficulties ahead for cooperation if forming a coalition government in the future, said analysts.

Musharraf has expressed his willingness to work with the new government through reconciliation. Musharraf told the Wall Street Journal that he hopes the new government would follow a conciliatory course. "The confrontational politics of the 1990's should be left behind," the president said.

Besides, the United States wants to see a stable Pakistan and hopes Pakistan remains a partner to fight terrorism, thus will urge the next government to work with Musharraf.

"We certainly would hope that whoever becomes Prime Minister and whoever winds up in charge of the new government would be able to work with (Musharraf)," US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

The US hopes the new Pakistan government will "work with us as partners in counter terrorism", White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on Tuesday.
(Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2008)

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