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The twice and future prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, garners big Pakistan vote

As counting continues in Pakistan's historic elections, Mr. Sharif's party has pulled away from its two main rivals. But the process of building a coalition will take time. 

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Nawaz Sharif celebrates as early vote counts show his party with a commanding lead in the polls.

K.M. Chaudary/AP

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It took scores of terrorist attacks, months of speculation and campaigning, but the verdict is in: Twice-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is set to win a third term after his party won a majority in the country’s parliamentary elections.

Pakistan went to the polls Saturday to elect candidates for the lower house of Parliament and four provincial assemblies. Mr. Sharif’s party, the center-right Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – is projected to win more than 120 seats, with the ruling center-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) trailing by a huge margin. Despite making gains and galvanizing new voters to take part, a national upset wasn't in the cards for former cricket-star Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). 

But Sharif isn’t going to take over power tomorrow – or even next week. There’s a lengthy process ahead of forming a coalition.

The victorious Sharif told supporters on Saturday night that he would like an “absolute majority” and “not have to ask for votes” but was open to talking to every party. He has often said that he is open to a coalition, but has warned that a “split mandate” is not what Pakistan needs given the scale of the country's challenges. 

Pakistan’s lower house of Parliament – the main legislative body – comprises 342 seats, of which 272 were up for grabs in the election. Polls for several seats were suspended after the deaths of candidates. Polling may also be conducted again for one seat in Karachi, which was marred by reports of electoral fraud and delays. The other 70 seats, "reserved" for women and non-Muslims, are indirectly elected based on the number of seats won by their parties. The party that reaches a majority with 172 seats forms the next government at the federal level. (Editor's note: The original story incorrectly stated the number of reserved seats.)

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