Zardari Eyes Second Term as President, ECP Announces March 9 as Polling Day

Former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Asif Ali Zardari has been nominated by the ruling coalition as its candidate for the upcoming presidential election, which will be held on March 9, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The ECP issued a public notification on Friday, outlining the programme for the election of the country’s top constitutional office. The notification said that the election was being held in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973.

The notification stated that the candidates can file their nomination papers with the presiding officers in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta by March 2 before 12:00pm. The returning officers will scrutinize the nomination papers on March 4 and the candidates can withdraw their candidature by March 5. The ECP will publish the list of validly nominated candidates on the same day and March 6 will be the date for retirement.

The polling will take place on March 9 at the National Assembly and all the provincial assemblies from 10:00am to 4:00pm. The members of the electoral college, which consists of the members of the Senate, the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies, will cast their votes through secret ballot.

Zardari, who served as the president of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013, is the joint candidate of the ruling alliance, which comprises the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the PPP, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP), the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Zia (PML-Z) and the National Party (NP).

The alliance has a comfortable majority in the National Assembly with 209 seats out of 336, while the opposition parties have 104 seats, with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) being the largest opposition party. The alliance also has a strong presence in the provincial assemblies, especially in Punjab and Sindh, where the PML-N and the PPP are the largest parties respectively. The alliance has also formed a coalition government in Balochistan, while the SIC has the most seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Zardari is widely expected to win the presidential election and replace the incumbent President Arif Alvi, who belongs to the PTI. Alvi’s term expired on September 9, 2023, but he remains in office until his successor is sworn in. The presidential election was delayed due to the dissolution of the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies before the completion of their five-year term, following a political crisis that resulted in the removal of Prime Minister Imran Khan by a no-confidence motion. Khan was later arrested and convicted for corruption and banned from politics for five years.

The opposition parties have not fielded any candidate against Zardari, who is seeking the presidency for the second time. Zardari is the co-chairman of the PPP and the husband of the late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He is also the father of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is the chairman of the PPP. Zardari is considered as a seasoned and influential politician, who has played a key role in the formation and stability of the ruling coalition. He is also known for his efforts to promote democracy, reconciliation and development in the country.

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