Pakistanis headed to the polls early Wednesday to elect a new government for the next five years, officials and local media reported.
Footage aired on local station Geo TV showed voters queuing outside polling stations in the capital Islamabad as well as in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and other cities. Voting will continue until 6 p.m. local time.
More than 100 million registered voters will cast their ballots across Pakistan in a nail-biting end to an intense general election process that has been marred by claims of rigging and terrorism.
The ballots will be cast for 272 general seats of the lower house -- also known as the National Assembly -- and 577 general seats of the country’s four provincial assemblies.
Around 50 political and religious parties are taking part in the elections, which have been marred by allegations of “manipulation” and “engineering”. The main contest is expected to be between three mainstream political parties and a five-party religious alliance.
The fieriest part of the race is expected to be between the two right-wing parties -- the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif, who is currently in jail following a corruption verdict against him, and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led by former cricket star Imran Khan.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto and religious alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) are also in the running.
According to the latest surveys held by Pakistani think-tanks, a neck-to-neck contest is expected between the PTI and the PML-N.
The PTI enjoys the support of 30-32 percent of voters whereas the PML(N) is the preferred choice of 27-30 percent of voters. The PML(N), however, has an edge over PTI in Punjab, the country’s most populous province and political powerbase.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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