U.N. concerned over Afghan parliament delay

The United Nations expressed its “deep concern” on Friday over a decree by President Hamid Karzai delaying the inauguration of the new Afghan parliament.

In a written statement, the world body said it, along with the United States and the European Union, wanted the parliament inaugurated as soon as possible.

“The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expresses its deep concern and surprise at the recent call to delay the inauguration of the national assembly,” it said.

“UNAMA, the European Union, the United States, Canada and other concerned members of the international community continue to support a reasonable, enduring and peaceful resolution to this issue … so that parliament can convene as soon as possible.”

Karzai’s office said this week the president had ordered a one-month delay to the inauguration of parliament after a special election court asked for more time to look into allegations of fraud in the September 18 election.

Karzai set up the special tribunal that put the breaks on parliament after protests by losing candidates angry at corruption and winners frustrated that they still had not taken their seats.

More than 200 members of parliament have condemned the court as unconstitutional, and this week chose a temporary speaker, saying they planned an unofficial opening for the original inauguration day, January 23.

There are 249 seats in the lower house of parliament so a firm majority appear prepared to face down the president.

Karzai had promised there would be no delay beyond a new February 22 target for forming the assembly. By then Afghanistan will have been without a parliament for more than five months.

There are fears that further delay will fuel political unrest and instability.