Pakistan's Khan set for coalition talks as full vote count announced

Pakistan's Khan set for coalition talks as full vote count announced
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By Idrees Ali

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's likely new prime minister Imran Khan is expected to launch coalition talks on Saturday with smaller parties after the electoral commission announced long-delayed full results of an election disputed by the opponents.

Khan's party scooped up 16.86 million votes in a better-than-expected performance, trouncing the party of jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif, which finished second with 12.89 million votes.

But the 116 seats by Khan's lawmakers was not enough to give him a majority in the 272-seat National Assembly without coalition partners, and he has ruled out both of the other two major parties, calling them as corrupt.

The poll has been marred by long delays in counting and complaints of rigging by Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. Some of the smaller religious parties are threatening street protests if the poll is not re-run.

Khan has offered to investigate any claims of irregularities in the wake of Wednesday's poll, which Sharif's PML-N and several other parties allege was skewed in favour of the former cricket hero by Pakistan's powerful military.

European Union observers were critical of the political climate in the run up to the vote, saying there was not a level playing field. The U.S. also voiced similar concerns.

Khan's 116 seats in Parliament puts him short of the 137 seats needed for a majority in the National Assembly, meaning he is likely to need a multi-party coalition with religoius parties and independents to form a government.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday released results for 270 races, with elections in two seats postponed. Several races were being recounted so the final numbers may change.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic. Editing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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