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ENTER IMRAN KHAN

ENTER IMRAN KHAN

Following a campaign marred by deadly violence and charges of cheating, Imran Khan, a charismatic Oxford-educated aristocrat and legendary cricketer, has claimed victory for his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party in Pakistan’s national elections. The party’s closest challenger, disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party, continues to insist the vote was stolen, but Khan will likely lead the next government.


This is a big deal. Pakistan’s military has dominated politics throughout the country’s 71-year history, and this transition will mark just the second time that one civilian-led government has passed power to another after their party finished its full term.

That said, as Khan well knows, parties in Pakistan have proven more resilient than their leaders. Not one of the 18 men and women appointed or elected as Pakistan’s prime minister has finished the term to which he/she was elected.

In a global context, this is yet another “change election.” As in France, Italy, and Mexico, a growing number of Pakistan’s voters have rejected the well-entrenched political establishment in favor of an outsider and the political party he created. (Khan launched PTI in 1996, but until now it has never truly contended for national power.)

In Pakistan, parties centered on political dynasties—Sharif’s PML-N (now led by Sharif’s brother) and the PPP (headed by the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto)—finished in second and third place respectively.

Who is Imran Khan?

Depends whom you ask. Critics say he’s a thin-skinned narcissist who doesn’t understand politics, constantly contradicts himself, and is in way over his head. Supporters, particularly young people hungry for change, say he’s just the man to take a cricket bat to Pakistan’s fantastically corrupt political culture.

Supporters and detractors agree he’s relentless. He has been Pakistan’s highest-profile political naysayer for more than two decades, and his dogged pursuit of a supreme court disqualification of corruption-plagued Nawaz Sharif defined this election.

Khan’s biggest challenges

On domestic policy, the new prime minister must tackle the deeply related problems of poverty and corruption. About 40 percent of Pakistanis live in poverty, and Transparency International, a corruption watchdog, rankedPakistan 117th of 180 countries on perceptions of corruption in 2017. Khan must also manage a badly weakened currency: The rupee has been devalued four times in seven months, stripping value from the banknotes Pakistanis hold in their pockets.

On foreign policy, Khan says he wants to resolve the (sometimes deadly) conflict with India over Kashmir and to improve relations with the US after a multi-year deterioration of ties with Washington. Though Khan says he wants to emulate China’s historic accomplishments in poverty reduction, a foreign-policy pivot toward Beijing has helped fuel a government debt crisis.

Khan must also carefully manage relations with Pakistan’s military, which remains central to corruption in government and business, and insists on final say on Pakistan’s foreign and security policy.

But the new prime minister’s biggest challenge will come from his transition from insurgent to incumbent. The perennial outsider must now assume responsibility for his country’s chronic problems while maintaining the backing of those who voted more for change than for Imran Khan personally.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

With the transition of power formally beginning now, what can we expect between now and inauguration day?

Well, there's a couple of important deadlines between now and Inauguration Day. The first is the December 14th meeting of the Electoral College, which will make the state certifications official and will make Joe Biden officially president-elect in the eyes of the US government. Another really important date is going to be January 5th, which is when Georgia has its runoff for the two Senate seats that will determine majority control in the Senate. If the Republicans win one of those seats, they'll maintain their majority, although very slim. If the Democrats win both of the seats, they'll have a 50/50 Senate with Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote and slightly more ability to enact Joe Biden's agenda next year. Also, between now and Inauguration Day, we're going to see Joe Biden announce his cabinet and senior staff. Most of whom will probably get confirmed fairly easily early, earlier ... Excuse me, later in January or early in February. And of course, we're going to see what President Trump is going to do next. I think that it's still a little bit up in the air what his post-presidency plans are. He has yet to concede the election. So, anything is possible from him, including a lot of new executive orders that could try to box Biden in and limit his options when it comes to economic policy, foreign policy, and social policy.

What can we expect out of the Biden administration's first 100 days?

Well, the biggest priority of the Biden administration first is going to be to confirm all of their cabinet appointees, and that should be pretty easy at the cabinet head level for the most part, even with a Republican controlled Senate. It's going to be a little more difficult once you get below the cabinet head, because then you're going to start to see some more ideological tests and some more policy concerns be flushed out by Republicans in the Senate. The second thing you're going to see is Biden start to undo as much of the Trump legacy as he can, and his primary vehicle for doing this is going to be executive orders, which is a lot of what president Trump used in order to enact policy. Expect Biden to reenter the Paris Climate Accord on day one and expect him to start undoing things like Trump's immigration orders and perhaps reversing some of his decisions on trade. Yet to be determined is if Congress is going to have fully funded the government for the entire year in December in the lame-duck session, and if they haven't, Biden's going to have to work out a deal probably in March or so to do that.

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