Asia

Q&A: Pakistan's presidential election

  • 31 July 2013
  • From the section Asia
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The election is a race between Mamnoon Hussain (L) and Wajihuddin Ahmad

Pakistani politicians will choose a new president on 30 July to replace the Pakistan People's Party's (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari.

The PPP has boycotted the poll, saying it was not given enough time to campaign. So it is a two-way contest between the Pakistan Muslim League's (PML-N) Mamnoon Hussain and the Tehrik-i-Insaf's Wajihuddin Ahmad.

Who votes in this election?

The president is elected by the members of the four provincial assemblies and both houses of the parliament.

Pakistan's voters do not have a direct say in the election of their president. The public elects members of the lower house of the federal parliament, and provincial assemblies.

How important is the election?

It is highly symbolic. Mr Zardari is set to become the first democratically elected president who has completed his term in office and handed power to another elected leader, a milestone in Pakistan's democratic transition.

Other elected presidents have been forced out from their position in military coups.

How much power does the president have?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Asif Ali Zardari gave up some of his powers in 2010

Mr Zardari became came to office in 2008 with powers that included control over the appointment of military leaders, dissolving national and provincial assemblies and removing prime ministers.

However, these powers were not part of the original 1973 Constitution. They were introduced by military generals Zia ul Haq and Pervez Musharraf to keep politicians under control.

Mr Zardari gave up all the powers through a constitutional amendment in April 2010, leaving the post relatively ceremonial. The new president will inherit these weakened presidential powers.

How is the president elected?

MPs in the federal parliament each cast one vote, while votes of the provincial assemblies are calculated through a complex formula.

All four provincial assemblies are given an equal number of votes, regardless of their size or population.

So all 65 members of the smallest assembly, in Baluchistan, have one vote each. In the more-populated Punjab, each assembly member gets the equivalent of one-sixth of a vote.

Who will supervise the poll?

Polling will be held at parliament house in Islamabad, and four provincial capitals under the supervision of the chief justices of the federal and provincial high courts.

Pakistan's Election Commission has asked the courts to oversee the election.

What is the likely impact of the election?

As the president has relatively little power, the election is unlikely to transform Pakistani politics.

Its potential to affect the balance of power between the presidency and the premiership is further weakened by the fact that both offices will almost certainly be occupied by politicians from the same party.

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