Saturday, September 6, 2008

Zardari wins vote in Pakistan, succeeds Musharraf

Saturday's election of Asif Ali Zardari as president of Pakistan appears to be just what the Bush administration hoped for. The world's only Islamic nuclear state replaced its unpopular U.S.-backed dictator turned president with a Western-leaning politician, the widower of beloved former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who gives every indication he will continue his country's controversial role in the U.S.-supported war against militants. Zardari received 480 out of 702 votes from Pakistan's electoral college according to unofficial results, the Reuters international news service reported. The electoral panel consisted of members of both houses of Pakistan's parliament and four provincial assemblies. "To those who would say the People's Party, or the presidency, would be controversial under our guardianship, under our stewardship, I would say 'listen to democracy'," Zardari said after the vote. Bush administration stalwart Condoleeza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, praised Zardari for his commitment to the war on terror, which is unpopular in Pakistan. "Now with a new president, I think we have got a good way forward," Rice told reporters. Zardari, a former businessman, spent 11 years in jail on corruption and murder charges but was never convicted and denied any wrongdoing. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said President George W. Bush was looking forward to working with Zardari on "issues important to both countries, including counterterrorism and making sure Pakistan has a stable and secure economy," Reuters said.

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