Yesterday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai inaugurated a new parliament following a 4-month long political crisis dating back to the September elections. Accusations of fraud and corruption were rampant, which resulted in an attempt by Karzai to delay the opening of the new parliament. However, newly elected anti-Karzai parliamentarians and officials from the international community pressured the president to back down. Karzai reluctantly complied, but not before he publicly accused the West of “foreign interference” in the electoral process. In his inauguration address, he stated that Afghans need to “put an end to foreign interference and ambiguity about elections and democracy.” As a result of the election, there are now 16 fewer Pashtuns and 15 more Hazaras than the last parliament. This new make-up is expected to be less supportive of the president and his endeavors.

Karzai recently raised eyebrows with his backing of Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf for parliament speaker. Sayyaf has not only been accused of various human rights violations, but was also once close to Osama bin Laden. It has been reported by one member of parliament, who chose to remain anonymous, that the president has backed Sayyaf in order to swipe the West for what he perceived as “interference” in the election. Karzai has also called for shutting down provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs), which he claims are “serious obstacles to the process of building government…There are some hands that are trying to kill the young democracy of Afghanistan.” (For an overview of the PRT initiative, see an earlier post I wrote entitled Are Provincial Reconstruction Teams Working? here.)

Through his various antics, both publicly and privately, Karzai continues to isolate the West while revealing signs of a power-hungry leader bent on dictatorial control over Afghanistan. Regardless, U.S. officials have praised the recent inauguration. “The seating of parliament is a significant milestone in the progression of Afghanistan’s democracy and an extremely important moment for Afghans who bravely cast their votes last September,” stated National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer. ”We commend the voters, in particular, who have steadfastly and courageously supported peace and democracy despite tremendous challenges,” said State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley.

The following clip was produced by Euronews: