27 Jan 2011

Afghan parliament finally opened

11:27 am on 27 January 2011

Parliament in Afghanistan has finally been opened by President Hamid Karzai, four months after the elections.

Mr Karzai had wanted a further delay to allow September's vote to be investigated, after accusations of fraud.

But the newly elected MPs argued that it was unconstitutional and just a means to eject opponents of the president from their seats.

He was overruled by opposition politicians and Western officials.

Analysts say Mr Karzai is not happy with the results of the poll, which has produced a lower house with a larger, more vocal and coherent opposition.

The 249-member lower house of parliament - the Wolesi Jerga - was originally scheduled to open on Sunday.

President Karzai had sought a further delay of at least a month to let a special election tribunal investigate the fraud accusations.

The special tribunal was set up by the Supreme Court. About a quarter of the five million votes cast were thrown out and 24 early winners were disqualified.

The BBC reports the new chamber contains bigger groups of ethnic Tajiks and Hazaras, who could challenge the president's traditional power base among Pashtuns, Afghanistan's largest ethnic group.