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Pakistan Presidential Election Scheduled for September 6


Pakistan's election commission has announced that the parliament and the country's four provincial assemblies will elect a new president on September 6. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that the election to replace former president Pervez Musharraf, who resigned this week, is likely to test the country's fragile coalition government.

Pakistan's president has historically been a largely ceremonial official, but former President Musharraf changed the constitution to give the office holder broad powers, including the ability to dismiss parliament.

Provincial and national lawmakers effectively banded together in recent weeks to force the powerful president to resign, but since then there are signs that their unity may not survive the election to replace him.

Who will succeed Musharraf?

Several politicians have emerged as possible successors to Musharraf, including the leader of the country's largest political party, the Pakistan People's Party, Asif Ali Zardari. Other political factions have named Zardari's sister or the current speaker of the National Assembly, who is also a woman. Minority partners in the coalition government have lobbied for prominent leaders from the volatile provinces of Balochistan or the North West Frontier.

Pakistan's election commission says candidates for the election must register by Tuesday.

Restoration of judges fired last year

Within Pakistan, the issue of replacing Mr. Musharraf has been overshadowed by the coalition government's failure to agree on whether it will restore the more than 40 top judges he fired last year.

Political leaders have said the deal to unite against the former president was based on an agreement that the judges would be reinstated 24 hours after the president had resigned. Four days later, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said political leaders are still working to implement the deal.

He says a draft resolution should be presented before the National Assembly on Monday. He says it will be debated, but Wednesday must be the day for the restoration of the judiciary.

The former prime minister has threatened to quit the PPP-led coalition unless the judges, including the former Supreme Court Chief Jutice Iftikar Muhammad Chaudhry, are not restored. It is widely believed the PPP is reluctant to restore the justices because they could undo a legal amnesty that dismissed corruption charges against some PPP leaders.

A spokesman for the former Chief Justice, whose legal battles with Pervez Musharraf were credited with sparking the movement that eventually led to the president's resignation, said Friday he was disappointed that yet another deadline for restoring the judges has passed.

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