Mamnoon Hussain’s election as President sprung no surprises. As expected, he won by a wide margin, defeating PTI candidate Mr Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmad by 432 electoral votes to 77. The remaining 165 votes of the 674-vote electoral college, consisting of both Houses of Parliament and the four provincial assemblies, were not cast mainly because of a boycott by the PPP. That boycott may cause problems for the President when he enters into office on September 9. However, though the PPP boycotted the election, President Zardari, who is still head of the PPP, congratulated him on his election, wishing him well in the discharge of his functions. Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, whose PML-N had nominated Mamnoon, also congratulated him, expressing the hope that he would come up to the expectations of the elected representatives.

Chief Election Commissioner M Justice (retd) Fakhhruddin G. Ebrahim, while announcing the result, said that there was no need to make the election controversial, or to boycott it.

The supreme courts decision to bring forward the elections without consulting the major stakeholders gave the PPP the entirely justified reason of boycotting the elections. As a result, the new President, who occupies an important symbolic position, is not being accepted by the second largest party in Parliament.

However, despite this, President Zardari's gesture of congratulations will be interpreted as having been sent on behalf of the PPP also. The president-elect has done well to resign not just his office in the PML-N, but also his basic membership. This provides a contrast with his predecessor, who clung to his party office despite legal challenges to it.

It may be thought not to matter any more whether or not the President is accessible to all politicians, now that he is restricted in all his functions by the advice of the government, but it does, because he remains, in the words of the constitution, ‘the symbol of the federation’. Though the election was highly partisan, the office is supposed to be non-partisan, precisely so that the President can receive anybody and everybody, without embarrassment or hesitation.

Perhaps the interval of a month before the President-elect actually takes office will serve as a cooling-off period, in which the main opposition party will be placated by the treasury benches. Among other things, the PPP will have to work out the relationship it is to have with President-elect Mamnoon, for, like it or not, boycott or no boycott, as a result of the election on Tuesday, he will become President on September 9, and remain in office for five years.