Karzai left increasingly isolated post new Parliament polls

Thursday, January 27, 2011

KABUL - Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai appears to be getting increasingly isolated and outmaneuvered by his country’s lawmakers.

This isolation has been taking place over the past 16 months, since the 2009 presidential election, in which he was forced into a runoff by Western diplomats as well as his Afghan supporters.

Once seen as a superb tactician, who could almost always find a way to juggle competing interests and slip through each crisis, Karzai is now increasingly turning to a small group of advisers and on several occasions has begun to miscalculate.

According to the New York Times, while newly elected members of parliament waited for Karzai to open the new session on Wednesday, a majority of them did not agree with his decision, announced days earlier, to delay the body’s opening for a month.

The NYT report says that Karzai was forced to back down and agree to inaugurate the newly elected lawmakers after months of heated wrangling over the fairness of last fall’s elections.

The turnabout and the string of political miscalculations have left Karzai a more diminished and more isolated leader, members of Parliament, Western diplomats and analysts say.

At the very least, they say, the outcome seems certain to signal the beginning of a potentially more precarious period in Karzai’s relations with Afghanistan’s power brokers.

He has angered losing parliamentary candidates whom he encouraged to pursue claims of fraud and whom he has now effectively deserted. He has angered those who won by appearing to be willing to delay and possibly even annul their election. And he again alienated his Western backers, who already see him as an unpredictable and difficult partner.

“Nobody is left for President Karzai, nobody is left supporting him,” said Mir Wali, a candidate from Helmand Province who was disqualified at the last minute and is a prominent figure in the province.

He added: “And, I doubt the new Parliament will support him.”

There are 16 fewer Pashtuns in this Parliament than the last and 15 more Hazaras, according to an analysis by Western officials in Kabul. The result is a Parliament that is less reliably supportive of the president.

Karzai’s miscalculation may be the fault of advisers, said several diplomats and analysts who also said he remained an extremely canny politician.

Afghan power brokers and diplomats both blame the narrowness of his consultations.

A Western diplomat in Kabul who has watched the election process agreed.

“It used to be that before making any move, the president would consult himself to death. Now, he’s relying increasingly on a smaller group of advisers and it might be different if they represented more different groups, but they don’t,” the diplomat said. (ANI)

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