Pakistan, which is struggling to recover from an economic crisis, was dealt another blow when the elections threw up a hung verdict. The country now faces days of political horse-trading as parties try to cobble together leaders to prove majority.
Imran Khan, who is in jail and barred from contesting elections, managed to grab the headlines as independent candidates who support his party Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf (PTI) won 102 seats.
But the party still fell 31 seats short of the majority mark needed to form the government. The result of 8 seats is yet to be announced.
Pakistan election commission has attributed the delay to internet issues, due to which polling stations are facing difficulties transmitting the results.
Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N), which was backed by the Army and the favourite to win the polls, could manage just 73 seats in the 266-seat assembly. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) won 54.
Both Khan and three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, declared victory yesterday increasing uncertainty over who will form the next government at a time when swift policy action is needed to address multiple challenges.
The independents' strong performance points to former prime minister Imran Khan's enduring popularity among the nation's 241 million people, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet amid the fastest inflation in Asia.
Several independents, backed by PTI, have alleged fraud in the election results and moved the high court. According to local media reports, several more candidates could approach the court over the next few days alleging that the votes were rigged.
PTI is also expected to launch nationwide protests today as the final results of the elections have still not been released.
Gohar Khan, PTI chairman, called on "all institutions" in Pakistan to respect his party's mandate. At a press conference, he said if complete results of the polls were not released by Saturday night, the party would hold peaceful protests today outside government offices returning election results around the country.
In a bid to keep Imran Khan's party away from the country's top office, Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto are holding talks to join hands. But even with the combined strength, they will fall short of the majority by 6 seats. NDTV