Karzai seeks one-month delay in seating Afghan parliament

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday ordered a one-month delay in the seating of a new parliament elected in September, further prolonging the nation's political turmoil.

Karzai's decision follows the recommendation of a special court he appointed to investigate electoral fraud. In a statement, Karzai said the inauguration, which had been planned for Sunday, will be pushed back to give the court time to continue to investigate.

The decision is significant because it leaves the nation without a critical check on executive power for at least another month; Karzai will effectively rule by decree in the interim. It also raises the possibility that Karzai's government is looking for ways to change the election's results, which went against many of his supporters. In the eastern province of Ghazni, Karzai's ethnic group, the Pashtuns, failed to win a single seat, even though they constitute a majority in the province.

In the months after the contested election, aides close to Karzai suggested that new results, or a new election, were likely if those investigating electoral fraud found compelling evidence of wrongdoing. Those options are strongly opposed by the winning candidates, who view Karzai as desperately attempting to engineer a different outcome.

The situation is a reversal of circumstances from the last presidential election, in 2009, when Karzai fought against allegations of voting fraud that threatened to unseat him and were highlighted by American officials. This time, Afghan officials have trumpeted the fraud allegations while U.S. officials have argued the results should stand. Western diplomats said on Wednesday they were rushing to assess the situation and deal with the fallout.

Roadside bomb kills 13: A motorized rickshaw packed with civilian passengers struck a roadside bomb in eastern Paktika province on Wednesday, triggering a blast that killed all 13 people in the vehicle, the Associated Press reported. Further details were not immediately available.

Karzai seeks one-month delay in seating Afghan parliament 01/19/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:15pm]

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