Afghan lawmakers demanded Monday that President Hamid Karzai inaugurate a new parliament on December 19 and draw a line under disputed results of a fraud-hit September election.
Against a backdrop of disputed results, the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga has been in recess for more than a month, highlighting how shaky domestic politics can be in a country with the nine-year Taliban insurgency at its deadliest.
Karzai has crucially yet to endorse the election results, which appear to have sapped his traditional Pashtun powerbase, and his spokesman appeared to distance the president from the lawmakers' demand.
The parliament's press office said a resolution was passed during a private session chaired by the speaker of the lower house of the outgoing parliament.
"Today around 100 MPs who were re-elected... passed a resolution asking the president of Afghanistan to inaugurate the new parliament on December 19, according the the law," it said in a statement.
"This declaration was not adopted in parliamentary session but by a separate session gathering 100 re-elected MPs... chaired by Yunus Qanooni."
The move came after Afghanistan's attorney general, who is a close aide of the president, plunged parliament into further gridlock by demanding that the country's top court annul results from the September 18 parliamentary election.
The top prosecutor opened a criminal probe into the poll after electoral authorities disqualified 24 early winners, among them allies of the president, and certified results that undermined Karzai's traditional Pashtun powerbase.
Karzai's spokesman declined to give a clear answer when asked if the new parliament would be inaugurated next Sunday.
"Whenever, according to the constitution and as a result of a free, fair, transparent and thorough election, the parliament is ready, President Karzai will inaugurate it," Waheed Omer told reporters in Kabul.
He added that the president would also not interfere in the row between the attorney general's office and the Independent Election Commission, which argues that only it has the authority to rule on the outcome of the poll.
"Both sides claim that based on the law, they have the right to do this or that... But the law does not allow the president to intervene in legal affairs, problems or legal tensions that exist between the legal institutions," he said.
Massive fraud leading to a quarter of votes being thrown out has cast a long shadow over the election, which was supposed to put the democratic process on a firmer footing after Karzai's own re-election in 2009 was marred by graft.
The wrangling comes as Afghanistan nears the end of the deadliest year of war since the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban and implanted Karzai's Western-backed administration.
The NATO alliance, which presides over around 140,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, warned that foreign soldiers will face further violence in 2011 as the Taliban-led insurgency shows little sign of collapsing.
"We're going to face more violence in 2011. It's not yet over. There will be still fighting, the work has not been done yet," said Brigadier General Josef Blotz, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
"So we need to keep the pressure on the Taliban. We need to solidify the gains we have made over the last couple of months, and this will also lead to more confrontation," he said.
US President Barack Obama last December ordered an extra 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan, but the surge has failed to stem the Taliban insurgency with violence at an all time high.
At least 692 foreign soldiers have been killed in the Afghan war so far this year, by far the deadliest toll in the conflict, according to an AFP tally based on one tracked by the independent icasualties.org website.
Last year 521 foreign troops were killed.
Source: AFP Asian Edition