US, UK and EU urge probe, express concerns over elections

US, UK and EU urge probe, express concerns over elections


EU notes 'lack of level playing field', US says there were 'undue restrictions'

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, Britain and the European Union on Friday separately expressed concerns about Pakistan's electoral process in the wake of a vote on Thursday and urged a probe into reported irregularities.

The main battle was between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's party and candidates backed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Both declared victory separately.

Elections were held for 265 seats in the National Assembly and a political party needs 133 seats for a simple majority.

The US and the EU both mentioned allegations of interference, including arrests of activists, and added that claims of irregularities, interference and fraud should be fully investigated.

PTI founder is in jail and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has been barred from the polls. Independents, most of them backed by PTI founder, had won the most seats - 98 of the 245 counted by 1830 GMT - while Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had won 69 seats.

The EU statement noted a "lack of a level playing field", attributing that to "the inability of some political actors to contest the elections" and to restrictions to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and internet access.

The US State Department said there were "undue restrictions" on freedoms of expressions and assembly while noting violence and attacks on media workers.

Some US lawmakers such as Democratic US Representatives Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar also expressed concerns.

Both Khanna and Omar urged the State Department not to recognize a winner until investigations are conducted into allegations of misconduct.

Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, said both EU and US State Department statements were "relatively mild ... considering the great scale of the rigging that went down."

The EU, the US and Britain said they would work with the next government and did not congratulate any candidate or party.
British foreign minister David Cameron's statement noted "serious concerns raised about the fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections."