Official results from Pakistan’s legislative elections show opposition leader Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party winning the vote and taking at least 115 of the 272 directly elected seats in the National Assembly.
But with about 90 percent of the vote counted, it was clear that the PTI would fall short of the 137 seats needed to control a simple parliamentary majority. That means the PTI will have to seek out allies in the legislature to form a coalition government, and reports said Khan, a former cricket star turned politician, on July 27 began consultations on forming a coalition government.
With results for nine seats yet to be confirmed, and with votes for the elections for three seats postponed, Pakistani election officials said on July 27 that the current ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had secured at least 62 seats.
In third place was the left-of-center Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) with at least 43 seats.
An additional 60 "member" positions of the National Assembly are reserved specifically for women and 10 "member" posts are reserved for non-Muslim minorities. Those positions will be allocated to the political parties according to proportional representation.
Although the additional 70 reserved positions make a total of 342 "members" in the National Assembly, a political party must secure more than half of the 272 directly elected seats -- or 137 seats -- to obtain or preserve a parliamentary majority.
Khan on July 26 Khan declared victory for his party in the elections, which were marred by delayed vote counting and violence as well as allegations of rigging by Khan's rivals.
In a televised speech on July 26, Khan said: "Thanks to God, we won and were successful," adding that "if God wills, we will set an example."
Sharif's PML-N and several other parties rejected early results from the vote count, alleging major vote-rigging and manipulation of the elections.
Pakistani election officials denied there was widespread fraud.
A spokesman for Khan's party, Fawad Chaudhry, said efforts were already under way to form a coalition, looking to both independents and allies.
However, a group of Pakistani political parties on July 27 rejected the results and announced a protest demanding new elections.
"We will run a movement for holding of elections again. There will be protests," said Maulana Fazlur Rehman from the All Parties Conference, which included the PML-N.
"We will not take oaths as lawmakers.... We will not let [PTI] go in parliament," Rehman said.
Michael Gahler, the leader of a European Union team that monitored the balloting, said, "Overall, the election results are credible."
But the monitors criticized the campaign, saying it was marred by the intimidation of some candidates, an effort to undermine the former ruling party, and media self-censorship.
"Our overall assessment of the election process is that it is not as good as in 2013," Gahler said.
In his July 26 speech, Khan called for "mutually beneficial" ties with the United States despite strained diplomatic relations.
"Unfortunately, our relations have so far remained one-way," said the 65-year-old. "I mean the U.S. assists Pakistan so that it can help fight the American war [in Afghanistan]. This has damaged Pakistan a lot. We want a relationship that is...balanced."
He also expressed support for peace in neighboring Afghanistan.
Kabul and Washington accuse Islamabad of providing safe havens for militant groups like the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network that are fighting Afghan and U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"If Afghanistan is at peace, Pakistan will also have peace," Khan said. "Our government will try its best to bring peace in Afghanistan."
He also offered an olive branch to arch-rival India, saying the two nuclear-armed nations should resolve a longstanding dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
If confirmed as prime minister after coalition negotiations, Khan's victory would mark his stunning rise from struggling politician to the highest civilian office in the country.
Born to a privileged family and educated at Britain's Oxford University, Khan was known for his playboy lifestyle and married wealthy British heiress Jemima Goldsmith in 1996. He has since remarried twice.
Khan has criticized Pakistani liberals and embraced conservative Islam as a politician, promising a "new Pakistan" with an Islamic welfare state and an Islamic justice system. A populist who ran on an anticorruption campaign, he has allied himself with extremist religious groups with ties to militancy.
He has characterized his campaign as a battle against a political elite -- dominated by long-established parties like the PML-N and PPP -- that he accuses of hindering economic development in the impoverished country of 201 million people.
Khan is also widely believed to be backed by the army, which fell out with Nawaz Sharif, who looked to curb the military’s traditional dominance in politics.
Khan has been an outspoken critic of the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan and of U.S. drone strikes against militants in Pakistan.
But analysts doubt Khan can radically change Pakistan's foreign policy, which is shaped by the army.
Pakistan's military has ruled for approximately half the period since the country’s independence in 1947, staging coups three times.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, Reuters, AP, AFP, and Dawn