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Bhutto Predicts Her Party's Participation in Pakistani Elections

  • VOA News

Pakistani opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says there is an 80-percent chance her party will participate in next month's general elections.

In an interview with VOA (Urdu service) Thursday, Ms. Bhutto said most opposition parties agree the January eighth ballot will be rigged in favor of President Pervez Musharraf's ruling party. She warned if the vote is not free and fair, the opposition will start what she called "a movement against the government."

Her Pakistan People's Party has been working out a list of election demands with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's opposition party. They say the government will have to meet the conditions to avoid an election boycott.

Ms. Bhutto also told VOA that together the two parties will likely win 60 to 65 percent of the seats in parliament.

Earlier Thursday, Mr. Sharif and his supporters tried to visit ousted Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry -- a strong critic of Mr. Musharraf -- but were blocked by hundreds of riot police.

The government has forced the retirement of many senior judges, including Chaudhry, because they refused to take a new oath of allegiance after the president imposed emergency rule on November third.

In an unrelated development, officials say Ms. Bhutto was prevented from taking a trip to Dubai late Thursday because she mistakenly presented an expired passport at Islamabad's airport.

Her aide said Ms. Bhutto will now leave Friday with the valid passport that she used when she recently returned from exile.

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