Tainted Afghan parliament set to open in days

The new lower house or Wolesi Jirga expected to be on January 23.

Updated: Jan 18, 2011, 16:56 PM IST

Kabul: Afghanistan`s long-delayed new parliament could be inaugurated within days after September elections that were beset by fraud and violence, but politicians and experts warn it may only fuel instability.

Law-making in Kabul has been in limbo for months as claims of ballot-box fraud delayed the final declaration of results, stopping lawmakers from taking up their seats and threatening the fragile authority of President Hamid Karzai.

But even once the new lower house, or Wolesi Jirga, does start its work, expected to be on January 23, it still faces serious problems which threaten its legitimacy and raise
the prospect of further turmoil, experts say.

A tribunal due to rule on the claims of vote fraud has yet to issue verdicts, and the new intake, dominated by warlords and businessmen, under-represents Afghanistan`s
biggest ethnic group, the Pashtuns.

The situation is being watched carefully in the West. International troops fighting the Pashtun-dominated Taliban are due to start limited withdrawals in July ahead of Afghan
forces assuming control of security in 2014.

"We think the vote of the Afghan nation has been stolen," said Daud Sultanzaoy, a losing candidate from southeastern Ghazni province where, despite a large Pashtun
population, the Hazara ethnic group won all 11 seats.

"This is an Islamic and tribal country... the people of Afghanistan will not give in to these unjust and illegitimate election results," Sultanzaoy added.

"History has shown that people in this country will stand firm to defend their legitimate rights."

Pashtuns are thought to make up around 42 percent of all Afghans, and represent Karzai`s powerbase, although only 32 percent of parliamentarians are from the ethnic group.

The beleaguered president has so far refused to
endorse the election outcome.

Angry protests by losing candidates broke out across
the country, including in Ghazni, after the release of
controversial preliminary results.

Political analyst Haroon Mir said a weak parliament
could further erode the fragile legitimacy of Kabul`s
political establishment, whose reputation was battered by
claims of massive fraud during Karzai`s re-election in 2009.

"We have been in crisis management on a daily basis
for the last year," Mir told a news agency. "If we continue to be in
2011, then I`m sure it will not be good for us."

Parliament was due to be sworn in on January 20 but
that is now likely to be pushed back to January 23 because of
a visit by Karzai to Russia, parliamentary affairs minister
Homayoun Azimi and Western sources say.

Bureau Report