Pakistani voters on Friday were anxiously awaiting the final results of a national election that has stunned many in the country by denying Pakistan’s powerful military a widely expected landslide victory for its preferred party.
That party, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was lagging in the polls behind a rival party, headed by another former prime minister, Imran Khan, as totals trickled in a day after voting. The prolonged uncertainty and tight race made clear that the military, long the guiding hand in Pakistani politics, had failed in its heavy-handed effort to gut Mr. Khan’s party ahead of the vote.
By 12:30 a.m. Saturday, that party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I., was leading in the polls with at least 90 confirmed seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament. Mr. Sharif’s party had at least 69 confirmed seats, with only 22 left unaccounted for in the vote. Most of those seats were expected to go to candidates affiliated with Mr. Sharif.
The success of P.T.I. may constitute as close to an upset as possible in a country where the military is the ultimate authority. It reflected the deep, loyal base of support that Mr. Khan has cultivated since he was ousted by Parliament in 2022, as well as his unique ability to outmaneuver the military’s playbook for sidelining politicians who have fallen out of its favor.
In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, which accounts for more than half of the seats in Parliament, many candidates in Mr. Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or P.M.L.N., were neck and neck with those in the party of Mr. Khan, a popular figure who has been jailed for months. Other key P.M.L.N. leaders in Mr. Sharif’s inner circle lost their races in constituencies that were once strongholds for the party.
While Pakistan’s election commission had initially said that the results would be released early Friday morning, by 6 p.m. officials had announced totals for just over half of the 266 seats up for grabs in the National Assembly.