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MPs elect upper house president

Following the inaugural meeting of Afghanistan’s first parliament after three decades of conflict, on Monday, members of parliament a day later elected an ex-president as head of the upper house of parliament, known as the Meshrano Jirga.

Afghanistan has had no elected parliament since 1973. A succession of coups and a Soviet invasion plunged the country into anarchy, leaving more than 1 million people dead. Civil war raged in the early 1990s, followed by the hardline rule of the Taliban until December 2001.

“Prof Sebghatullah Mujadidi was duly elected head of the Meshrano Jirga for the next five years by winning 50 votes,” Qadam Ali Nikfai, public information officer for the upper house, said in the capital, Kabul, home of the new legislature.

Sebghatullah Mujadidi is a religious leader born in 1929 and a graduate of al-Azhar University in Cairo. In 1992, after the collapse of the pro-Soviet government in Kabul, he served as Afghan president for three months.

But the 249-member Wolesi Jirga, or lower house, has yet to elect a speaker as members have failed to reach an agreement on the modalities of electing the position and how much power the person holding the post should have.

Abdurab Rassol Sayaf, Mohammad Younus Qanooni and a female journalist, Shukria Barikzai, are among the frontrunners for the post of speaker.

Meanwhile, ex-president, Burhanudin Rabbani, announced his backing to Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, leader of the opposition alliance, the National Understanding Front (NUF).

The 18 September election for the lower house and 34 provincial councils was a key step in Afghanistan’s transition to democracy.

Of the country's 12.5 million registered voters, some 6.8 million Afghans took part in the polls to elect a national legislature and 34 provincial councils for a five-year term.

Almost 5,800 candidates contested the poll, including over 2,700 for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga and more than 3,000 for 420 seats in provincial councils.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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