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Central & South Asia
Karzai 'reaches parliament deal'
Afghan president offers to inaugurate parliament on Wednesday after intense talks with lawmakers over delay to opening.
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2011 18:55 GMT
September's parliamentary polls were marred by allegations of fraud and intimidation [EPA]

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has offered to inaugurate the country's parliament on Wednesday, ending a political standoff over a proposed delay to the opening.

Lawmakers said Karzai offered the new date on Saturday during intense talks with newly elected Afghan representatives in the capital, Kabul.

"We have agreed on Karzai's request to open parliament on Wednesday and refrain from going to parliament tomorrow," the Reuters news agency quoted Sediq Ahmad Usmani, a representative from Parwan province, as saying.

More than 200 new lawmakers had threatened to hold the opening ceremony on Sunday without the president, after Karzai suggested parliament's opening session be postponed for a month so that a tribunal could further investigate allegations of election fraud.

The head of the special tribunal, set up in December to look into more than 400 cases of alleged electoral fraud in September's parliamentary polls, had 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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