Karzai strikes deal with MPs to avert crisis
Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday struck a deal with lawmakers to allow the inauguration of parliament next week, ending a standoff that had thrown the country into political turmoil.
Lawmakers, furious with a presidential decree postponing the January 23 inauguration, had threatened to meet at parliament on Sunday, with or without Karzai. After marathon talks the president offered to convene the assembly on Wednesday.
"We have agreed on Karzai's request to open parliament on Wednesday and refrain from going to parliament tomorrow," said Sediq Ahmad Usmani, a representative from Parwan province.
Karzai rowed back from an announcement he made last week in which he said the inauguration would be delayed until February 22 to allow a special election court he established to continue fraud probes into an election in September.
That announcement sparked political chaos. Lawmakers denounced the decision and the court as illegal and made plans to open parliament without Karzai, while losing candidates who support the delay pledged to bar the winners access to the building.
The United Nations, United States, European Union and Canada had criticized Karzai's decision and expressed "deep concern."
Karzai's proposals to end the stand-off, made to a small delegation, were put to a larger group of lawmakers for a final approval, and their closed-door debate in a Kabul hotel was at times heated with shouting that could be heard from outside.
Some were skeptical the president would stick to his word.
"The majority of us may agree on what has been proposed by the president, but there is no guarantee he won't back away," said Sharifullah Kamawal, a member of parliament for Kabul.