(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan’s election commission said it will hold national elections in the last week of January, ending speculation that polls may be delayed further. 

The voting will be held after redrawing of the constituencies following the new census, the agency said in a statement from Islamabad on Thursday without announcing an exact date. Polls were originally scheduled to be held in November, within three months of the dissolution of the National Assembly in August, but the election commission delayed these without a timeline.

The nation’s benchmark KSE-100 index gained 0.8% at close after the announcement of polls.

The new government will face the challenge of managing an economy that avoided a default after securing a $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund in July. It will also have to deal with public anger that have been protesting nationwide because of rising energy costs and the highest inflation in Asia.

The polls are likely to see a three-way battle for power. Three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party and imprisoned ex-premier Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf will attempt to return to power amid a challenge from former President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party. Both Sharif, who has lived in exile in UK since 2019, and Khan can’t participate in elections as they have been disqualified by courts that found them guilty of corruption.

Sharif’s party joined Zardari in ousting Khan through a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April last year. They formed a coalition government with other allies for about 16 months till the end of its five-year term in August.

Pakistan’s new census showed a 16% increase in population to 241.5 million people with slightly over half of age to vote. 

(Updates with details)

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