Pakistan opposition parties protest Musharraf's presidential bid
( RIA Novosti ) - Pakistani opposition forces staged a mass rally Friday in protest against President Pervez Musharraf's intention to seek re-election.
Pakistan's election commission announced Thursday that a presidential election will be held October 6, despite threats by opposition parties to boycott the vote if the current president runs for re-election.
Hundreds of religious activists gathered outside the Supreme Court building, chanting "Go, Musharraf, Go!" and "We don't want him in or out of uniform."
Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, earlier said he would resign as army chief and become a civilian president if re-elected. Under the current Constitution, the president is elected by members of a two-house national parliament and provincial legislative assemblies.
Leaders of the ruling Muslim League of Pakistan party, which holds a parliamentary majority, said they had enough votes to ensure Musharraf's victory.
Musharraf, 64, has been under strong criticism recently from opposition groups for stamping down on democracy in the country.
The presidential election will be followed by parliamentary elections later this year, which could lead to a fierce political struggle between military authorities and the democratic opposition. The military has seen a sharp drop in popularity in past years and experts believe the opposition has a fair chance of winning a parliamentary majority.
Two exiled former prime ministers - Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto - have already expressed their intention to run for seats in the new parliament.
Bhutto, who leads the Pakistan Peoples Party, said she wanted to return home on October 18 after eight years of self-imposed exile.
Sharif attempted to return to Pakistan last week, but was quickly deported to Saudi Arabia.