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Bhutto widower Zardari elected Pakistan's new president

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  • NEW: Zardari: "Democracy vindicated," president is subservient to parliament
  • Asif Ali Zardari, widower of ex-PM Benazir Bhutto, elected Pakistan president
  • At least 25 dead following explosion in turbulent NW Pakistan region
  • The pro-U.S. Zardari will rule a nuclear power threatened by Islamic militancy
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Nearly a year after assassins killed Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, her widower won the country's presidential election and hailed his triumph as a victory for democracy.

"I feel democracy has been vindicated," Asif Ali Zardari told CNN. "I feel we are coming closer to her [Benazir Bhutto's] mission of total democracy in Pakistan. And we shall take the oath of office of President in the name of Shahid Benazir Bhutto, and that will be a momentous occasion for all the democratic forces in the world."

Zardari, 53, had been the front-runner in the race to replace former President Pervez Musharraf, who was forced to resign last month.

Zardari is to be inaugurated on Tuesday and would take office the same day. Video Watch an analyst discuss the election »

The election was not by public vote, but rather by lawmakers in the two houses of the National Assembly and in the four provincial assemblies around the country. Under Pakistan's constitution, the president is elected by a majority vote. Video Watch Zardari discuss his challenges »

According to the chief election commissioner of Pakistan, Qazi Muhammad Farooq, Zardari received 481 votes. Retired Chief Justice Muhammad Saeed Uzaman Saddiqi received 153 votes and Senator Mushahid Hussain received 44 votes, Farooq said.

"The democracy talks, and everybody hears," Zardari said in a televised address Saturday evening. "And to those who would say the People's Party or the presidency would be controversial under our guardianship and under our stewardship, I would say, listen to democracy."

The president-elect said he would hand over many responsibilities to the parliament. "Parliament is sovereign, this president shall be subservient to the parliament," he said in the televised address.Video Watch why not everyone is celebrating Zardari's win »

"It is the philosophy of ... Benazir Bhutto, in which we believe, which says democracy is the best revenge," Zadari said. "She taught us how to live. She taught us how to do politics."

The pro-American Zardari will rule a nuclear power threatened by Islamic militancy and economic turmoil. The Taliban are resurgent in Pakistan and the country's economy is tanking.

Zardari took over Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) after her death late last year. His party had been confident of a win, saying Zardari had the support of three of the four provincial assemblies -- which would be crucial in helping Zardari forge the alliances he needs to tackle the country's main problems.

Hussain, who was a close aide to the ex-president, was representing Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Q. The party had painted him as a candidate who represented the middle class and has a clean track record -- in contrast to Zardari, who spent 11 and a half years in jail on corruption charges that he refutes.

Siddiqui was nominated by the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Musharraf resigned under intense political pressure last month as the ruling coalition began taking steps to impeach him. He had swept to power in 1999 in a bloodless coup.

The chairman of the upper house of the assembly, Mohammedmian Soomro, has been acting president in the meantime.

Saturday's election came one day after Pakistan's Supreme Court reinstated three of its judges who Musharraf ousted in November, following his imposition of emergency rule.

The PPP had formed a coalition with Sharif's party, the PML-N, but the coalition split apart August 25. The PML-N had set that date as a deadline for the government to honor its promise to reinstate the judges who were fired.

The PPP, which led the coalition, said it believed the coalition should focus on picking a successor for Musharraf before it decided on reinstating the judges.

At least 60 judges were arrested after Musharraf issued his order. Some were jailed, others placed under house arrest.

Security around the National Assembly building in Islamabad was tight, with police on the roof and at the gates and riot police on site.

As the voting took place, a suicide car bomb exploded in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 25 people, including eight police officers, local police spokesman Fazal Karim said. Eight-one others were wounded.


The explosion happened at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Peshawar, about 4 miles (7 kilometers) from the Provincial Assembly in Pakistan, where some of the presidential voting was taking place.

Peshawar is the capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. The province is near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan and is rife with Islamic extremists.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

All About PakistanPervez MusharrafNawaz SharifAsif Ali ZardariElections and VotingThe Taliban

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