Afghan parliament standoff persists

Newly elected representatives holding talks with President Karzai over his decision to delay the opening session.

    September's parliamentary polls were marred by allegations of fraud and intimidation [EPA]

    Newly elected Afghan representatives are having intense talks with Hamid Karzai, the country's president, over his decision to delay the opening of parliament for a month so that allegations of election fraud can be further investigated.

    Two parliamentarians involved in Saturday's talks, under way at the presidential palace in Kabul, said no resolution to the political crisis was in sight.

    Fawzai Kafi and Ali Akbar Qasimi said the politicians were not backing away from their plan to open the parliament on Sunday - with or without Karzai's blessing. More than 200 MPs said they would defy Karzai by going ahead with the planned opening session.

    Kafi and Qasimi said Karzai was not backing down either and was still trying to get the parliamentarians to embrace the delay. Karzai has suggested that the session be postponed for a month so that a tribunal can continue investigating allegations of election fraud.

    The head of a special tribunal, set up in December to look into more than 400 cases of alleged electoral fraud in September's parliamentary polls, has called for a delay of at least a month.

    Sidiqullah Haqiq, the tribunal head, warned that his body could still rule in favour of recounts.

    It is unclear if the tribunal, deemed unconstitutional by both the international community and the electoral bodies who organised and oversaw the election, has the authority to alter the result of any races.

    'Nationwide fraud'

    Former Afghan MP Daoud Sultanzoy, who has a case pending with the special tribunal over a seat in the election, took issue with the push to open parliament.

    "The courts decided and announced that there was mass nationwide fraud therefore they made the determination that more time was needed and the president agreed with that," he told Al Jazeera.

    "Therefore, the parliament cannot be opened. These people are not members of parliament until the president swears them in.

    "The international community who is in such a hurry to put a stamp on this election should be aware that by putting that false stamp they will ... put the last nail on the coffin of credibility and confidence in the international community."

    International concern

    The United Nation's mission in Afghanistan expressed its "deep concern and surprise" at Karzai's order for a delay.

    In a statement released on Friday, the UN, the EU, the US, Canada and other nations said they continued to support a "reasonable, enduring and peaceful resolution to this issue" so that the Afghan parliament can convene "as soon as possible".

    During an earlier investigation into the charges of irregularities, an anti-fraud watchdog discarded 1.3 million ballots, nearly a quarter of the total, and disqualified 19 winning candidates before final results were issued on November 24.

    But Afghanistan's attorney general said the investigation had not been thorough enough and launched a new round of inquiries, which led the supreme court to create the special tribunal in late December.

    As well as being hit by fraud and violence, the original parliamentary election resulted in a weak showing for the Pashtuns, Karzai's traditional power base and Afghanistan's biggest single ethnic group.

    A free and fair election would have shown Karzai's commitment to fight cronyism and corruption a year after international criticism over a fraud-tainted presidential poll that led to his own re-election.

    However, the parliamentary ballot, in which 2,500 contenders ran for 249 seats, was marred by allegations of fraud and voter intimidation.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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