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Family dynasty fills Bhutto vacuum in Pakistan

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"Despite all the talk of democracy, within parties there is no democracy," says Ayesha Jalal, a South Asia historian at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. "This is a contradiction."

In one of his first acts as cochairman of the PPP, Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, said the party was ready to contest Jan. 8 elections. The decision was made largely to capitalize on what could be a significant sympathy vote, experts say.

The Pakistan Election Commission was scheduled to decide Tuesday whether the vote would go forward on time. Political offices in some parts of Pakistan were burned during the rioting that followed Bhutto's assassination Dec. 27, destroying local voter lists. This could compromise elections, forcing a delay, officials have said.

But experts also suggest that the ruling party of President Pervez Musharraf might seek to delay the vote in hopes that the swell of support for Bhutto will wane.

What is certain is that even if the PPP wins the elections, neither Mr. Zardari nor he and Bhutto's son, Bilawal, will be prime minister. Zardari has chosen not to run for a seat in parliament and will instead run the party from the background, much as Ms. Gandhi is doing in India.

Zardari is a controversial figure, having spent 11 years in prison for corruption. During Bhutto's time as prime minister, he was known as "Mr. 10 Percent" allegedly for demanding kickbacks on government contracts.

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