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Karzai faces polls fraud crisis

world Updated: Jun 27, 2011 23:06 IST

A political crisis erupted in the Afghan capital over the weekend after a special investigative court found that 62 legislators had won their seats by fraud last year and ordered them removed from parliament.

The legislators vowed to remain and threatened to stage street protests, while a majority of sympathetic lawmakers voted to fire the attorney general and six Supreme Court justices.

“This is like the revolution in Tunisia,” declared Hafiz Mansour, a lawmaker disqualified by the tribunal, which was convened by president Hamid Karzai.

“Karzai wants to show he can do whatever he wants, even if it violates the law and the constitution. Instead, he has brought the entire parliament together against him. We are not leaving.”

Critics portrayed the situation differently, calling the rebels obstructionists and ballot-box cheaters. They said the disqualified lawmakers were bent on provoking a clash among Afghanistan’s weak democratic institutions just when the Karzai administration needs to show it can effectively govern and protect the nation as US forces and aid programs begin a three-year withdrawal.

Supporters of the president, including several respected politicians who lost in 2010 but will be reinstated in parliament if the tribunal’s actions stand, said that the judicial panel had done its work properly and that the legislature had no legal right to try to fire the state’s head prosecutor and senior judges in revenge.

“These people were caught red-handed. They are calling the tribunal illegal, which is absurd,” said Daoud Sultanzoy, a former legislator who led a lawsuit by colleagues who believed they were robbed of their seats in 2010. He said some newly disqualified lawmakers with unsavory pasts had set up armed compounds near the parliament. “They want to threaten the executive and the judiciary, too,” he said. “We cannot let things fall into their hands.”

With the three branches of government at a tense stalemate, and some lawmakers calling for Karzai’s impeachment, the capital seemed transfixed by the political tempest.

( In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post. For more, log on to www.washingtonpost.com )

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