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Pakistan elects Ashraf as new prime minister

From Reza Sayah, CNN
updated 11:46 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Raja Pervez Ashraf ascended to prime minister of Pakistan on Friday.
Raja Pervez Ashraf ascended to prime minister of Pakistan on Friday.
  • NEW: Parliament elects Raja Pervez Ashraf as Pakistan's new prime minister
  • Like the previous nominee, Ashraf is also controversial
  • He was nicknamed "Raja Rental" after he was accused of corruption
  • He replaces Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was ruled ineligible to hold office

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Raja Pervez Ashraf ascended to prime minister of Pakistan on Friday after lawmakers approved his nomination in a majority vote in parliament.

Ashraf, 61, a former minister and staunch loyalist of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, replaces Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was ousted by a Supreme Court ruling earlier in the week.

The lower house of parliament voted 211-89 in favor of Ashraf, a confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari who until recently served as minister of information and technology. Ashraf takes over running Pakistan's government at a time when political tensions are high and relations with the United States are strained.

Ashraf was the party's second choice to replace Gilani.

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Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin's candidacy was marred shortly after it was made public when a trial court issued an arrest warrant for him in connection with a drug scandal in 2010, when he served as health minister.

Last year, Shahabuddin resigned from the minister post amid allegations that he accepted kickbacks while in office. The Supreme Court is hearing a case involving the allegations.

Ashraf also has been accused of corruption in the past.

In 2011, he was accused of scheming to receive kickbacks from private power companies during his time as minister of water and power.

The corruption allegations earned him the nickname "Raja Rental" among many Pakistanis.

The case was also heard by the Supreme Court and a ruling is pending, said Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader of the Pakistan People's Party.

Chaudhry called the investigation "politically motivated."

Gilani was ousted from office when the nation's top court disqualified him retroactive to April 26, the day he was convicted of contempt charges.

The charges stemmed from his refusal to call on Swiss authorities to reopen old corruption charges against Zardari.

Journalists Nasir Habib and Ayza Omar contributed to this report.

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