In electing new president, Pakistan takes another key democratic step
Mamnoon Hussain, a leader of the ruling party, will succeed President Zardari. The vote follows May's historic transfer of power from one civilian government to the next.
Pakistani legislators elected a new president on Tuesday, in what is being seen as a key development in the countryâ€™s democratic process.
Mamnoon Hussain, a leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was elected president with a comfortable majority.
The outgoing president, Asif Ali Zardari, will end his term on Sept. 8, marking the first time in Pakistanâ€™s history that a democratically elected president has officially completed five years in power. In May, Prime Minister Sharifâ€™s party swept the parliamentary elections in a historic transfer of power from one civilian government to the next.
â€śPakistanâ€™s democratic consolidation continues as a new civilian president has been elected by the electoral college,â€ť says political commentator Raza Rumi. â€śHaving said that, the inherent fissures within the political elite have also come to light during this process as the major opposition party â€“ the Pakistan People's Party â€“ did not participate in the elections. That raises a question on the legitimacy of the process.â€ť
The run-up to the election was marred with controversy. The influential Pakistan People's Party as well as the Awami National Party both boycotted the vote. The partiesâ€™ bone of contention was that the election â€“ earlier set by the Election Commission for Aug. 6 â€“ was moved to July 30, after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz petitioned the Supreme Court to have the schedule changed. The Pakistan People's Party has said it was not consulted in the process. And the head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, said earlier this week that his party was only participating â€śunder protest.â€ť
In any case, Hussain was projected to win the election given that his party had the majority of votes needed in the national and provincial assemblies.
Hussain, a Karachi-based businessman, has earlier served as the governor of the Sindh Province. An seemingly earnest, affable man and a party loyalist, Hussainâ€™s nomination aimed to provide some representation to smaller provinces at the highest levels of government.
â€śItâ€™s a very deliberate choice to nominate a Karachiite as a presidential candidate, because the Sharif government had been severely criticized for giving the most important posts to legislators from the largest province, Punjab. A balance had to be effected,â€ť says Mr. Rumi. â€śThe other significance of Mamnoon Hussainâ€™s nomination is the inclusion of Karachiâ€™s citizens in the governance process, given Karachiâ€™s economic importance and that the fact that the business lobbies support the Sharif government.â€ť
Hussain will take oath in September. He is unlikely to play a leading role, as the president is largely a figurehead in Pakistan. Constitutional amendments made during President Zardariâ€™s tenure transferred most powers from the president to the prime minister.