Former cricketer Imran Khan has claimed victory in Pakistan’s election despite accusations of vote rigging by rivals.
In a television address shortly after the result was announced, Khan, 65, said: “We were successful and we were given a mandate.”
Khan’s PTI party is still expected to fall short of an overall majority and to seek coalition partners after a campaign that was marred by violence, including a voting day bombing that killed 31 people at a polling station.
A charismatic aristocrat who captained Pakistan to a World Cup victory in 1992, Khan has long shed his celebrity playboy image for a more pious, populist posture as he promises a new Pakistan.
Though an official confirmation of the vote is expected to come later in the evening, the party of disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has rejected the results, as have a host of smaller parties, all alleging vote-rigging and manipulation.
The election has been seen as a contest between Mr Khan’s PTI party and Mr Sharif’s PML-N, with the party of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the historically liberal PPP, widely expected to come third.
Khan, however, in his address said: “I think this has been the clearest, fairest election Pakistan has ever had.”
He also appealed to his rivals to join hands with him to develop Pakistan, vowing to hold talks with India to seek a resolution to the dispute over the Kashmir region, a key flashpoint between the nuclear-armed countries.