Pakistan's nationwide elections, held in the face of turmoil and set to pass power from one elected civilian government to another, were a substantial tribute to the country's leaders and 177 million people.
The apparent victor Saturday was Nawaz Sharif and his Muslim League party. If he becomes prime minister, given the number of seats his party won, it will be his third time in power. His last term was cut short in 1999 when the military overthrew him.
His latest victory was no triumph of idealism in Pakistani politics. A former steel magnate, Mr. Sharif, 63, is rich and depends on his wealth and tribal and regional affiliations to pick up votes. He was challenged by Imran Khan, a cricket star, whose campaign promises included distancing Pakistan from the United States. Pakistan allows the United States to use killer drones in its territory without much oversight. The U.S. military also is counting on withdrawing through Pakistan thousands of tons of military equipment in Afghanistan.
Mr. Sharif is not expected to challenge these plans, whereas Mr. Khan might have. Mr. Khan's campaign was disrupted by a fall he had a few days before the election in which he landed on his head and was hospitalized.
Mr. Sharif received congratulations on his election from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Barack Obama. His first task will be to stitch together a coalition to govern the country. The second will be to tackle some of Pakistan's major problems.
These include a separatist movement in Baluchistan, general lawlessness along the Afghanistan border and finding a working arrangement with the Taliban, who are active in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. Violence by the Taliban and others killed more than 100 people during the election campaign. The electorate's discontent with Pakistan's shaky economy and widespread corruption is thought to have returned Mr. Sharif to power in place of the government led by Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Mr. Sharif deserves congratulations for his victory, in spite of the ferocious problems he inherits. The successful elections represent a middle-grade triumph of democracy.