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Elections in Pakistan are important for all

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti international commentator Ivan Zakharchenko) - The predictions that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would be defeated in the parliamentary elections have come true - the opposition received a majority of votes.

It is hard to guess what will happen next. The complicated political situation may develop in any direction; it may even again become favorable for Musharraf.

Trying to resolve this riddle, analysts are primarily emphasizing that Musharraf, who recently gave up his military uniform to please potential voters, is a close American ally in the war against terrorism, and particularly, against al-Qaeda. This alliance allows the United States to strike at potential enemies on the territory of sovereign Pakistan.

The assassination of the opposition leader and former Prime Minster Benazir Bhutto last December deprived the nation of a popular politician, but her Pakistan's People's Party (PPP) was victorious in the current elections. Another opposition party - Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), also led by a former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was the runner-up. Musharraf overthrew him as a result of a bloodless coup in 1999.

According to tentative estimates, these two opposition parties will have 139 out of the 272 seats in parliament.

Extremism is a real threat to the security of Pakistan and the rest of the region, as Bhutto's assassination has shown. The future government will have to take this into account in its future efforts to restore civil order.

Some observers expect the opposition parties to form a coalition that would be able to pursue a policy different from that of Musharraf. But there are serious doubts in the ability of the late Bhutto's supporters and Sharif to overcome their contradictions for the sake of a coalition.

But there is a real chance that Musharraf's party, which has also gained seats in parliament, may unite with Bhutto's supporters. Like Musharraf, Bhutto also enjoyed Western support. The current president has promised to cooperate with any party that wins the elections to restore civil order. These two parties may well come to terms. At any rate, the difficult work on forming a ruling coalition has just started.

The new civil government will not have an easy life. It will have to listen to public opinion even more than General Musharraf had to.

Formally, the army that has been influential but unpopular in Pakistan is subordinated not to Musharraf but to General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the former head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He has promised not to interfere in politics, and will likely keep his word. But the army may help ensure law and order during the country's transition to a civil society.

For the time being, it is important to see how the Pakistani military will react to the results of the current elections and future political games. No matter what coalition it may form in the name of democracy, the current opposition may eventually slide down to authoritarian rule.

On this topic the influential Pakistani newspaper Dawn wrote: "While in most stable political environments elections bring about democratic politics, this universal assumption may not be applicable to Pakistan. We have seen in Pakistan in the recent past that elections have been held specifically for the purposes to justify and legitimize military rule, making it more entrenched as a result."

The results and consequences of these elections are important not only for Pakistan but also for the entire world community that is interested in preventing destabilization. Instability would play into the hands of the radicals that want to influence the political situation in the country and the rest of the region. This is why it is extremely important for the future ruling coalition in Pakistan to be viable.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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