Pakistan will hold a general election on July 25 and President Mamnoon Hussain has approved the date, electoral officials said on Saturday, as the government enters its final week in office.
Parliament is due to be dissolved on Friday, May 31, when a new interim prime minister and an interim administration are meant to take over.
However, political wrangling between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party and the opposition in the National Assembly had delayed the announcement of the new interim prime minister.
Cricket player-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, or Justice Party, is expected to be the main challenger to the ruling PML-N.
The outgoing government of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is only the second to complete a five-year term in office, which underscores a democratic transition in the nation.
The upcoming election is due to be held at a time of growing political instability, with the PML-N accusing the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half its history since independence in 1947, of interfering in politics and trying to weaken it.
The military denies involvement in politics.
The interim administration usually does not make any major decisions except for supervising elections until a new government is elected, though it may be forced to act to shore up the US$300 billion economy amid a worsening macro-economic outlook.
Pakistan’s foreign reserves are rapidly depleting and the current-account deficit has widened sharply over the past year, prompting many analysts to speculate Pakistan may need another International Monetary Fund bailout.
However, Islamabad is expecting to obtain fresh Chinese loans worth $1 billion to $2 billion to help it avert a balance-of-payments crisis, Pakistani government sources have said.