Karzai agrees to open parliament

Afghan president to inaugurate parliament if MPs agree to respect post-election rulings of special tribunal.

    Wednesday's inauguration is still not confirmed as negotiations continue between Karzai and lawmakers [AFP]

    Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has conditionally agreed to inaugurate the country's parliament, despite saying earlier in the week that he would put the move on hold for a month over disputes regarding elections last year.

    On Saturday, Karzai reached a tentative deal with politicians who threatened to start work without him, averting a possible constitutional crisis over the planned delay in opening the new parliament, its members said.

    In return, MPs were expected to agree to sign a letter promising to respect the rulings of the supreme court on any review of fraud cases in the September elections.

    Sue Turton, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, has warned, however, that negotiations are ongoing and that Wednesday's inauguration is far from confirmed.

    "It's a bit of a stalemate here and I'm hearing today [from diplomatic sources] that these negotiations are still very much ongoing and there is no decision yet as to whether this inauguration will go ahead on Wednesday," she reported.

    Molawi Rahman Rahmani, an Afghan lawmaker, told the AFP news agency that the same 38 lawmakers who had met with Karzai on Saturday are now due to meet with him again on Monday "regarding the abolishing of the special tribunal".

    The apparent deal came a day after the United States and United Nations criticised Karzai's plan to delay the opening of the 249-seat parliament. They called for it to be opened as soon as possible.

    Gul Pacha Majid, an Afghan politician, told AFP that a committee of 35 MPs had reached an outline agreement with Karzai after hours of talks in Kabul - the same lawmakers that Rahmani now says will reject Karzai's conditions on Monday.

    "The agreement is that the president will inaugurate parliament on Wednesday and, in return, the winning candidates will respect and accept the decisions taken by the special tribunal," Majid said.

    While all of the winning candidates have not yet formally agreed to back the deal, Majid said that a large number had agreed to it and he thought that an official resolution would likely be made public on Sunday.

    Shukoria Barekzai, another politician, said a deal was "confirmed", and that the "supreme court will engage with us to solve the crisis".

    Crisis over election

    Angry parliamentarians had earlier threatened to inaugurate the parliament with or without Karzai, and Rahmani renewed the pledge on Sunday regarding the planned opening of parliament on Wednesday.

    He said, however, that he believes Karzai will "probably" be there.

    The disagreement centres on the results of the fraud-hit parliamentary elections, where Pashtuns, Karzai's traditional political power base, were under-represented.

    While Pashtuns constitute 42 per cent of all Afghans, it is thought that only 32 per cent of the new parliamentary intake is ethnically Pashtun.

    Karzai's office had announced on January 19 that it was delaying the inauguration of the parliament for a month from the original date of Sunday, January 23.

    That announcement followed a statement from the head of the special tribunal, who called for a delay of at least four weeks while the review of results continued.

    However, many winning candidates have questioned the authority of the special tribunal, saying it is unconstitutional.

    In a statement on Friday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan expressed "deep concern and surprise" at the call for the delay from Karzai.

    But while the US, UN, European Union and other international players had called for Karzai to back down, not everyone is happy with his decision to do so.

    Daoud Sultanzoy, a former parliamentarian who lost his seat in a chaotic election in Ghazni province, said Karzai bowed to pressure from the international community to support the appearance of a fair vote rather than waiting for the courts to make a decision.

    'Tragic situation'

    "The United States and the European Union and everyone are ganging up on the people of Afghanistan," Sultanzoy said.

    "It's a very tragic situation that the president is deciding to do this under international pressure."

    Sultanzoy and other losing parliamentarians are planning to stage a demonstration in Kabul on Sunday. He said that he expects similar demonstrations to be held nationwide, and that Afghans will be unable to trust the government after this decision.

    "Karzai is hitting the last nails in the coffin of this government," Sultanzoy said.

    Losing candidates such as Sultanzoy have been holding almost weekly demonstrations, Al Jazeera's Turton reported.

    After the original parliamentary poll in September, electoral authorities disqualified 24 early winners, including allies of the president, and threw out around a quarter of the five million votes cast.

    The attorney general's office later called for the results to be annulled, saying the vote was marred by massive fraud. Karzai has yet to endorse the outcome.

    'Afghans indifferent'

    Haroun Mir, the deputy director of the Afghanistan Centre for Policy Studies in Kabul, told Al Jazeera that the president was in a difficult situation, because "he does not know how to satisfy the international community, the winners and the losers".

    "We are in a very difficult country, at any time we could have another crisis, which could lead to violence in Afghanistan, so everybody is very careful," he said.

    He warned, however, that the parliament had already lost the confidence of the people, before even having convened.

    "Unfortunately, this parliament has already lost credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of Afghans. The Afghan people in general are totally indifferent to what's going on in the ... parliament. It would be very difficult for them to regain the trust of Afghan people.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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