Pakistan holds elections for the lower house of parliament and assemblies in its four provinces on February 18. The elections were postponed from January 8 after the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on December 27.Following are some facts about the elections:
* The election is for 272 National Assembly seats. Another 70 seats in the 342-seat National Assembly are reserved for non-Muslims (10) and women (60), which are allocated to parties according to how many votes they win.
* Seats are allocated on the basis of population. Of the 272 National Assembly seats, 148 are in Punjab province, 61 in Sindh, 35 in North West Frontier, 14 in Baluchistan, 12 in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and 2 in the capital, Islamabad.
* There are more than 80 million registered voters.
* Members of the assemblies are elected by secret ballot in direct voting in a constituency in a first-past-the-post system.
* The voting age is 18.
* The main parties contesting the election are: the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), sometimes called the PML (Q) or Q League, which backs President Pervez Musharraf; the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, also known as the PML-N or Nawaz League.
* It is not a presidential election, but President Pervez Musharraf’s future could be at stake if voters return a hostile parliament. Musharraf’s foes say his re-election for a second five-year term by the outgoing parliament last October was unconstitutional, and they could move for his impeachment.
* In the last parliament the PML controlled 130 seats, the National Alliance, which later became part of the PML, had 16, and the party of Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, interior minister in the PML-led coalition, held 19, while PPP held 63, a six-party Islamist alliance called Muttahida Majli-e-Amal (MMA) held 59, PML-N had 18, a pro-Musharraf regional party in Sindh province called Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) held 18, and minor parties and independents accounted for the other 19.