Despite earlier vowing to ensure announcement of the results of the Feb. 8 elections within hours of the close of polls at 5 p.m., the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday dismally failed in fulfilling its responsibility, raising questions over the legitimacy of the vote that the country can ill-afford at this critical juncture. As the clock ticked over to midnight, several parties—relying on a mere fraction of polling stations reporting—claimed victory, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), whose candidates were contesting as independents after the party lost its electoral symbol.
Such announcements set the tone for controversial results, with any potential shift as more polling stations reported in inevitably triggering cries of rigging or manipulation. As of 10 a.m. on Friday morning, the ECP’s deadline for issuing complete results of the polls, a bulk of constituencies were still pending, triggering further uncertainty. The ambiguity has already impacted the economy, with the Pakistan Stock Exchange crashing by more than 2,000 points within an hour of the start of trading.
While it is undeniable that results will continue to pour in as the day progresses, the delay has now made the polls so controversial that any government that emerges will face an uphill battle in achieving the reforms deemed essential for reviving a teetering economy. At the same time, the large number of independents that can now be swept up by one of the major political parties all but ensures the coming days will see a surge in ‘horse-trading’ with the shift in loyalties also triggering unrest and voter disenchantment.