ISLAMABAD (AP) — Lawmakers in Pakistan’s upper house of parliament on Friday re-elected a candidate supported by Imran Khan as Senate chairman, a win seen as another boost for the embattled prime minister who last week himself handily won a vote of confidence from the lower chamber.
However, Friday’s vote was marred by opposition cries of foul after critical ballots for their candidate were invalidated and the discovery earlier in the day of spy-cameras at the main polling booth.
Official results declared that Sadiq Sanjrani, from the Balochistan Awami Party backed by Khan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party, had defeated opposition candidate Yusuf Raza Gilani in a 48-42 vote in the 100-seat house. Two lawmakers were absent.
Seven ballots in favor of Ghilani and one vote for both Gilani and Sanjrani were invalidated because they were improperly stamped, according to Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah who supervised the vote. The opposition slammed Shah’s statement, claiming the votes were in order.
The votes “were legally cast,” said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who heads the key opposition Pakistan People’s Party which had fielded Gilani. Zardari raised the possibility of a lawsuit to challenge the declared results.
“The victory of our candidate was turned into a defeat,” he said.
Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, also from Pakistan People’s Party, said the spy cameras were installed to support government-backed candidates for Senate chairman and deputy chairman. He did not explain as to why cameras would benefit government-backed candidates. Senator Musadik Malik, an opposition leader from Pakistan Muslim League, said the cameras were put in place because the government did not trust its own lawmakers to vote for their candidate.
Authorities ordered a probe into the incident and removed the devices, Shah said in televised comments.
Last Saturday, Khan won a confidence vote in the National Assembly — a vote he had called after an embarrassing defeat for his ruling party’s key candidate in for Senate elections.
The Senate vote on March 3 was seen as a test for Khan, who came to power in the 2018 parliamentary elections. It boosted the number of Senate seats for the opposition, which has a slight, 53-47 majority over Khan and wants Khan to step down.