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Pakistan's President Wins Vote of Confidence

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has won the vote of confidence he needed to remain in office for next four years.

Officials say nearly 60 percent of lawmakers in both houses of Pakistan's parliament and four provincial assemblies voted Thursday in favor of President Musharraf.

"General Pervez Musharraf, [holder of] the president's office, having received a majority of the votes of the members, is hereby declared elected," Irshad Hassan Khan, head of the country's election commission, announced the result on state-run television President Musharraf took power in a 1999 military coup, and later allowed national elections under a decree he personally introduced.

A constitutional amendment granting the president sweeping powers, also part of Mr. Musharraf's decree, was approved earlier this week, paving the way for Thursday's vote.

But scores of opposition members boycotted the vote, saying the process was not democratic, nor was it constitutional.

"A military general has bulldozed himself to occupy the office of the president through manipulating the parliament and by unilaterally amending the constitutional," said Senator Farhatullah Babar, an opposition politician. "We condemn this, we reject this."

Supporters of President Musharraf say he has strengthened his position by getting parliamentary approval for his presidency and for his controversial constitutional changes, which empower him to dismiss the elected government and dissolve parliament.

But critics remain skeptical about Mr. Musharraf's political reforms, saying they are only meant to enhance his personal powers without ensuring a stable political system in Pakistan.

"His [President Musharraf] position would have been comfortable had he managed to erect or create an enduring political system," said Ayaz Amir, a noted Pakistani political commentator. "Now, we don't have that at the moment. Pakistan's system remains fragile and as long as that is the case, then these cobbled together compromises really don't amount to anything."

A powerful opposition alliance of religious parties, which provided the votes needed to pass President Musharraf's constitutional amendment, abstained from the confidence vote in order to show they still do not support anyone holding both military and presidential office at the same time.

The deal between the pro-Musharraf government and the Islamic alliance forces Musharraf to quit as head of the military by December of this year.