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After standoff, Karzai opens newly assertive Afghan parliament

Afghanistan's President Karzai had tried to delay convening the new parliament until a special court finished investigating allegations of election fraud. His concession highlights the growing power of the legislative branch.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a ceremony for newly elected members of parliament in Kabul, on Jan. 26. Karzai swore in the country's new parliament Wednesday in a ceremony that marked the end of a drawn-out battle over whether the lawmakers would be able to start work despite ongoing investigations into electoral fraud.


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President Hamid Karzai inaugurated Afghanistan’s newly elected parliament on Wednesday, a concession by him that adds weight to the increasingly assertive legislative branch.

Mr. Karzai had tried to delay the convening of the new parliament until a special court finished investigating allegations of election fraud. The victorious candidates – as of today, sitting parliamentarians – had argued the court was unconstitutional and that they would convene with or without the president’s blessing. Key international players appeared to back the new parliament, prompting Karzai to complain about “foreign hands” stoking the crisis.

Since Karzai’s fraud-marred reelection, lawmakers have successfully challenged more of his major decisions, holding out the prospect of diverse power centers competing inside the constitutional process, rather than just on the battlefield. Yet the parliament remains weak, and this particular standoff with Karzai may not be over.

“There are so many issues not resolved: What will be the role of the special court, whether [its] decisions will be binding or not, and how to implement the decisions,” says Shahmahmood Miakhel, country director for the United States Institute of Peace in Kabul. “So we can not say this is the end of the story.”

Special deals with the special court?

Statements from Karzai indicate that he thinks a deal was struck with parliamentarians to allow the special court to continue its investigation and to abide by its findings, expected in February. But legislative leaders appear to be saying something different.


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