Islamabad: Pakistani lawmakers are voting to elect the country's 13th president on Tuesday, a race in which the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party's candidate Arif Alvi's victory has become almost certain after the Opposition parties failed to reach a consensus on a joint candidate.
Voting via a secret ballot started simultaneously in the Senate, the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta around 10 a.m. and will conclude at 4 p.m.
The National Assembly and the Senate members are voting inside the National Assembly hall, whereas the MPAs are doing the same in their respective provincial assemblies.
In Pakistan, the President is considered as a symbol of the federation and head of the state and exercises all powers on the recommendations of the prime minister.
Outgoing President Mamnoon Hussain's tenure ends on September 8. He had declined for re-election to a second 5-year term.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday completed preparations for the election.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has named Aitzaz Ahsan as its candidate. The third contender, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, entered the fray after the Pakistan Muslim League-N refused to support Ahsan, who has in the past been a harsh critic of the jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's party.
Rehman is the joint candidate of the PML-N, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Awami National Party (ANP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and the National Party.
Since PTI controls the National Assembly and has majority in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab and has support of the ruling Party in Balochistan, its candidate Alvi is in strong position.
A dentist by profession, 69-year-old Alvi is one of the founding members of PTI. He served as the party's secretary general from 2006 to 2013.
He won the National Assembly elections from NA-247 (Karachi) during the July 25 polls. He was also elected member of the National Assembly in the 2013 general election. He reportedly stood by Prime Minister Imran Khan during his political career.
The results would be declared this evening.
The total strength of lawmakers of Senate, National Assembly and four provincial assemblies is 1,174 but as several seats are vacant, their existing strength is 1,121.
The voting system is complex, as the presidential elections are held on the basis of proportional representation to give equal representation to the four provinces.
Each lawmaker of Senate (104 members), National Assembly (342) and Balochistan Assembly (65) has one vote. But the vote of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies is determined on the basis of proportional representation and each assembly has been allotted 65 votes equal to the total number of members in the assembly with the least members, that is, the Balochistan Assembly.
Accordingly, 5.70 Punjab parliamentarians makeup 1 vote, 2.58 in Sindh, 1.90 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while lawmakers in Balochistan, the smallest assembly, get one vote each.
Thus, according to the law, the president is elected by the Electoral College consisting of 706 votes of all lawmakers.
Dr Alvi is likely to win easily due to division in the ranks of the Opposition.
Efforts by the Opposition parties to win each other's support continued till late Monday night.
Sources in the political parties said that Rehman had a marathon meeting with Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP to win his support but he failed to convince the former president.