Central & South Asia
Anger as Karzai opens parliament
Losing candidates hold protest as president fails to win a delay to let disputed September poll be probed by tribunal.
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2011 12:39 GMT

Many newly elected MPs say Karzai's tribunal is unlawful and that regular courts should handle poll-rigging claims [AFP]

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has inaugurated the lower house of parliament after failing to win a delay to allow September's disputed elections to be investigated by a special election tribunal.

Karzai told losing candidates who held a protest outside his palace that his decision to go ahead with the ceremony on Wednesday had been influenced by "foreign hands".

The president had been under pressure from many of the newly elected MPs who argued that the tribunal was unconstitutional and that any claims of poll rigging should be investigated by regular courts.

Following the election, a quarter of the five million ballots cast were thrown out and 24 early winners were disqualified.

There were also fewer wins than expected for the majority ethnic Pashtuns.

The lower house of parliament had originally been scheduled to open on Sunday.

'Political crisis'

Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, reporting from Kabul, said that the president had put out a statement saying "he had wanted to carry on postponing the inauguration but that foreign hands had pushed him into going ahead with it".

Turton said: "He [Karzai] said he was warned that if he failed to turn up they would inaugurate parliament without him and that he thought it would end in political crisis [if he did not go ahead]."

Karzai's statement said: "To save the country from foreign interference and crisis we decided to meet with the winning candidates and make them acknowledge that after the inauguration of the parliament, they need to accept the ruling of the ... court."

Daud Sultanzai, a former member of the Afghan parliament, accused foreign embassies and the UN of pulling the strings of Afghanistan's government.

"Are we living in an Afghanistan that belongs to the Afghan people or to the [UN] and foreign embassies?" he said.

Staffan Di Mistura, the head of the UN in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera: "Not only I but many Afghans and the whole international community were feeling that it was high time to have a parliament ... the elections took place four months ago ... the parliament needs to be there.

"The separation between judiciary and the legislative can work in this country."

Karzai said that successfully elected MPs in the election had given him a written acceptance that they will acknowledge the decisions of the tribunal.

'Killing democracy'

Turton said that in his speech, Karzai talked about "how people had claimed his own presidential elections two years ago was illegitimate and he compared it to people claiming this parliamentary election also being illegitimate".

"He said these were people trying to kill Afghanistan's young democracy and the Afghan reaction should be to become more nationalistic, to do things for themselves in future instead of letting foreigners take the lead," she said.

Mistura said: "The implication [of the president's remarks] was that we [the Afghans] still need a foreign presence but we want increasingly to take over our future.

"And this is exactly what the international community wants and that is why 'transition' has become the key word of this year."

Al Jazeera and agencies
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