Parliamentary Chamber: National Assembly


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  National Assembly

Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  3 February 1997

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the members of the National Assembly following premature dissolution of this body in November 1996. General elections had previously been held in October 1993.

Background and outcome of elections:

  National Assembly elections had previously been held in October 1993. On 5 November 1996, President of the Republic F.A. Leghari dismissed Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan People's Party - PPP) on grounds of alleged corruption and abuse of power by her Government; a caretaker administration took over and new elections were called for the following February.

National polling - the fourth in eight years - was held simultaneously with voting for the assemblies of the country's four provinces. Besides the PPP, primary contenders for the 217 seats at stake were the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) faction of Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister from 1990 to 1993 before he himself was dismissed by the President; the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) led by Mr. Altaf Hussain; and the Islamic fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami. Campaign issues focused on the country's ailing economy (foreign debt, inflation, budget deficit, shortage of foreign currency reserves), rising terrorism, the ethnic and religious conflict between the majority Sunni Muslims and the minority Shi'ites, and corruption in official circles, with the outgoing Prime Minister defending her record in office. Altogether 6,289 candidates were in the running.

Election day proceedings were monitored by international observers, including teams from the European Union and the Commonwealth. Voters turned out in low numbers and decisively favoured the centrist PML (Nawaz group), which emerged with a total of 134 seats - close to a two-thirds majority. In this context, Ms. Bhutto alleged irregularities in the voting but stopped short of calling for mass protests, emphasising that Pakistan needed above all political stability to improve the domestic situation. The observers, for their part, found that "basic conditions" for the poll had been fulfilled but declined to use the term "free and fair". As victor, Mr. Sharif promised "audacious" economic reforms to pull the country out of its doldrums. He was confirmed as Prime Minister by the National Assembly and sworn in to this post on 17 February. The new Cabinet was named on 26 February.

Round no 1 (3 February 1997): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 55,068,024
Voters 19,506,855 (35.42%)
Valid votes 35.16%

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) 137
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) 18
Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) 12
Awami National Party (ANP) 10
Independents 21
Others 9

  Excluding seats reserved for minorities

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 212
Women: 5
Percent of women: 2.30

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Copyright 1997 Inter-Parliamentary Union