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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Observers Call Pakistan Vote Flawed

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A party loyal to Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf emerged on top Saturday in elections that saw shock gains for hard-line Islamists but were dismissed as flawed by European Union observers.

The unprecedented showing by religious parties left them as major players in Pakistan's political power game and could undermine Islamabad's support for the U.S.-led war on terror.

But observers from the EU issued a damning report on the poll Saturday, slamming the authorities for using state resources to back particular parties and changing the Constitution so the military retained ultimate power in Pakistan.

"The holding of a general election does not in itself guarantee the establishment of a democracy," the EU's chief election observer, John Cushnahan, said.

With just four of 272 constituency seats still to be confirmed, the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-a-Azam -- dubbed the "king's party" for its backing of Musharraf -- had won 77 seats. The EU said PML(QA) had been the main beneficiary of official attempts to interfere in the election.

But with no single party gaining a majority, newspapers predicted an intense period of political jockeying, and commentators and diplomats said it was hard to imagine a stable coalition government emerging in Pakistan.

The emergence of the religious right as the dominant force in the two provinces bordering Afghanistan could complicate U.S. efforts to track down al-Qaida and Taliban militants thought to be sheltering there, diplomats said.