Opposition leaders warned Sunday against massive fraud as Pakistanis prepared to choose a new parliament in an election that could determine the political survival of President Pervez Musharraf, America's key ally in the war on terror.
U.S. representatives urged Musharraf to live up to promises of a free and fair vote. Surveys pointed to an opposition victory in today's election.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who is among several American lawmakers who will monitor the vote, said Sunday in Lahore that Washington should cut military aid to Pakistan if the elections are rigged.
Musharraf was re-elected in October to a new five-year term. But the retired general faces growing public anger over his moves last year to declare emergency rule, purge the judiciary and curb independent media.
An overwhelming victory by the opposition would leave Musharraf politically vulnerable, even at risk of impeachment.
Public opinion surveys have suggested that if the election is fair, the Pakistan People's Party of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will finish first, followed by another opposition party led by another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
The pro-Musharraf party - the Pakistani Muslim League-Q - is a distant third, according to the surveys.
Anti-Musharraf politicians repeated charges Sunday that the government plans to rig the balloting.
"This is not going to be a free and fair election," said the spokeswoman for Bhutto's party, Sherry Rehman.
A senior leader in the pro-Musharraf party, Mohammed Ali Durrani, brushed aside talk of vote fraud, saying the opposition was raising the allegations because it fears a defeat monitored by thousands of local and foreign observers and media.
"No one accepts election results after losing," Durrani said.