Pakistani Voters Hold Their Noses

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LAHORE, Pakistan: Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is not taking her defeat in national elections well. "The results were engineered. . . . The whole thing was a fraud for the people of Pakistan," she told reporters at her first news conference since Monday's elections. Despite this, Bhutto she said she would not challenge her defeat because that would only create political and economic instability. Or perhaps it's because Pakistani voters are thoroughly sick of a corrupt political process. Asked to distinguish among several corrupt and ousted parties, Pakistanis had mostly stayed home. Although votes are still being counted, election officials estimated turnout at less than 30 percent, a record low. Those who voted chose the less recently disgraced. Nawaz Sharif, a former Prime Minister ousted for allegations of corruption in 1993, will likely be Pakistan's leader in parliament once again. His Pakistan Muslim League had won 97 seats and was just 12 shy of a majority, with 85 seats still undecided. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party trailed in fourth place with just seven seats, compared to the 86 it held before, though two were reclaimed by Ms. Bhutto and her mother. "Public respect for political parties has plummeted, and democratic government discredited," said former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who led a Commonwealth observer team. Three governments have been dismissed for corruption since democracy replaced the military dictatorship in 1985. Amidst flagging public confidence, a forth begins.