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Pakistani lawmakers elect Imran Khan ally president

Pakistani lawmakers have elected a nominee from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party to the ceremonial office of president, further cementing the ruling party’s power.

The Pakistani media announced the unofficial results after the vote by over a thousand lawmakers from both houses of parliament and the four provincial assemblies ended Tuesday afternoon.

Arif Alavi, one of the founders of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, claimed victory in televised remarks. Alavi told reporters he was “thankful to God,” and vowed to be a president for all of Pakistan. TV footage showed him shaking hands with lawmakers after the vote, with many handing him sweets in celebration.

Pakistan’s elections oversight body will certify the result Wednesday.

The presidential polling began on Tuesday morning and continued afternoon local time.

The PTI had officially nominated Alavi as the presidential candidate, while rival Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had named Aitzaz Ahsan for the largely ceremonial post.

The third candidate, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, had also been named as the joint nominee of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and four smaller parties.

Alavi, a senior member of Khan’s party from the southern province of Sindh, faced little challenge from Ahsan and Rehman after the opposition failed to unify behind a single candidate.

Alavi won 212 votes in the upper and lower houses of parliament, while Ahsan got 81 and Rehman secured 131. Alavi also got the most votes in the four provincial legislatures.

Alavi will replace Mamnoon Hussain, who completes his five-year term on September 9.  Hussain, a close ally of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had kept a low profile during his tenure.