ISLAMABAD >> Pakistan’s ruling party named a new candidate for prime minister Friday, the latest developments in political turmoil triggered by the ouster of the ex-premier by the Supreme Court.
The party also said early parliament elections would be held later this year. The announcement of the elections and of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as premier-designate followed a week of turbulence that pitted the high court against the country’s government in a high-stakes battle for power in this nuclear-armed country considered crucial to the U.S.’s war in Afghanistan.
Ashraf, who was the minister for information technology in the recently ousted government, was originally put forward as a backup candidate but then got the nod after the first choice was immediately hit with an arrest warrant Thursday on drug-related charges.
The parliament is scheduled to vote on Ashraf’s candidacy later Friday evening. The ruling coalition has a majority so Ashraf is expected to be approved. The Pakistan People’s Party is the largest party in the coalition.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday disqualified Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister for failing to initiate a corruption probe of the president’s affairs.
A senior PPP member, Khursheed Shah, said during a news conference Friday that the party had decided on Ashraf after consultations with their coalition partners, many of whom also attended the press conference.
“Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is our final nominee,” he said.
Opposition members had been calling for new elections to be held immediately, but the PPP, fearing it would not do well, has been reluctant to do that. Shah did not give a date for the elections, but the earliest they could likely be held is late in the fall.
“This year will be the year of new elections, and we are going for the elections,” he said.