Delays Plague Opening Of Afghan Parliament President Hamid Karzai has put off seating Afghanistan's new parliament for at least a month, angering many. Now, Afghans are asking if it's time to move ahead despite a flawed election, or let the dispute drag on. Meanwhile, Karzai is in a position to rule by decree.
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More Delays Plague Opening Of Afghan Parliament

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More Delays Plague Opening Of Afghan Parliament

More Delays Plague Opening Of Afghan Parliament

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Just days before a planned inauguration, President Hamid Karzai has put off seating Afghanistan's new parliament for at least another month. A legal battle has raged ever since the ballots were cast in September. Now, Afghans are torn between moving on, despite a flawed election, or letting the dispute continue and try to correct the results.

NPR's Quil Lawrence has the story.

QUIL LAWRENCE: The freshman class of Afghanistan's 2010 parliament had already waited four months, with varying degrees of patience, when a sort of orientation was scheduled this week. Three days of training in parliamentary procedure at Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel made a festive scene for the MPs, but then the party ended abruptly.

(Soundbite of conversations)

LAWRENCE: More than 200 MPs-elect heard the news that the supreme court had asked President Hamid Karzai to put off the inauguration of parliament for another month. They reacted with anger and disbelief.

Mr. AHMAD BEHAZAD (Re-Elected Member, Parliament): (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: This is a coup d'etat, said Ahmad Behazad, a re-elected MP from western Herat Province. Any delay is unconstitutional, he said. But that's where opinions diverge.

Afghanistan's two electoral bodies are supposed to be the sole arbiters of election complaints. Despite widespread allegations of fraud, the electoral committees had ratified the results as good enough, along with a nod from the U.N. and the United States.

But President Karzai asked the supreme court to set up a special tribunal for election complaints. Critics say that's because the results, as is, don't favor Karzai's parliamentary allies or his fellow ethnic Pashtuns, who in many districts were unable to vote because of Taliban threats. To many of those candidates, the delay seemed like justice.

Justice SEDAQALLUH HAQIQ (Supreme Court): (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: When Sedaqalluh Haqiq, the chairman of the supreme court, ruled that Karzai should delay seating the parliament, a group of losing candidates in the audience couldn't restrain themselves.

(Soundbite of applause)

LAWRENCE: Karzai's actions have raised the hopes of candidates like Daoud Sultanzoi. In his native Ghazni Province, Pashtuns have a clear majority, but most of their districts had their polling stations closed because of Taliban threats. All 11 seats in Ghazni went to non-Pashtun minorities. If the results aren't corrected, it will drive Pashtuns into the arms of the insurgency, says Sultanzoi.

Mr. DAOUD SULTANZOI (Candidate, Afghan Parliament): The legitimacy issue is a very important factor in a country like Afghanistan that is at war.

LAWRENCE: The Supreme Court did mention the possibility of re-running the election completely, which would be fine with candidates like Sultanzoi. It would not be okay with the international community, which spent tens of millions of dollars to hold the election and then endorsed the results.

But Sultanzoi rejects the international pressure.

Mr. SULTANZOI: Is that better to fix things and then hold elections, or just hold elections because it satisfies Washington's political calendar?

LAWRENCE: As the stalemate continues, the parliament building is empty. The outgoing MPs have been turned away from the building by police and the new ones have not yet been invited in. But the new MPs say that won't be the case for long.

(Soundbite of conversations)

Ms. FAWZAI KOFI (Re-Elected Member, Afghan Parliament): (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: Fawzai Kofi, another re-elected MP from Badakhshan Province, says that 200 of the MPs-elect are going to go to the parliament on Sunday, with or without the president's approval.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Kabul.

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