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The twice and future prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, garners big Pakistan vote

As counting continues in Pakistan's historic elections, Mr. Sharif's party has pulled away from its two main rivals. But the process of building a coalition will take time. 

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The most probable choices would appear to be the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F), a nationalist party from the Sindh Province, and political parties from Balochistan and Sindh, such as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). These negotiations will take time – and will need to be conciliatory in tone, something Sharif, for one, has displayed in the years preceding his party’s victory. The MQM has had a contentious relationship with Sharif in the past, and a congratulatory statement by MQM’s London-exiled chief Altaf Hussain took a dig at the PML-N as a "representative party of Punjab," as opposed to a party with national standing.

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Role for America?

Leaked diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed that after the last national elections in 2008, several parties discussed their options for coalitions with American diplomats. But in a report released prior to the May 11 elections, the Center for American Progress think tank noted that the “goal of U.S. policy should be to work with – not attempt to control – Pakistan’s internal political processes. Only Pakistanis themselves are capable of establishing a more stable, democratic system capable of balancing diverse interest groups and effectively addressing the country’s challenges.”

Elections for some seats in the upper house of Parliament, the Senate, are next scheduled for 2015. These elections are indirect, with senators voted in by members of the four provincial assemblies. The PPP currently has a majority in the Senate, which provides the party with the opportunity to effectively block legislation if it is in the opposition in the National Assembly.

While the makeup of provincial governments isn’t necessarily dictated by who won a majority in the National Assembly, it often has a spillover effect. The PPP and the PTI are projected to gain a majority in the Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces respectively, while the PML-N would retain its Punjab stronghold and could form a government with Balochistan’s nationalist political parties in that province.

Newly elected members of the National Assembly, Pakistan’s lower house of Parliament, will elect a speaker and a deputy speaker, after which the assembly will elect a "leader of the house" – the prime minister – and an opposition leader. The prime minister will be sworn in by President Asif Ali Zardari, who is the dynastic head of the PPP, and a cabinet will be picked made up of senators and newly elected legislators. A presidential election is due later this year.

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