President Hamid Karzai's decision to postpone the inauguration of the Afghan parliament could spark ethnic divisions and more violence, analysts warned Friday.
Winners and losers of the September parliamentary elections have traded accusations of fraud and irregularities, and accused each other of providing incentives to the Taliban.
The election results saw a power shift in parliament - with reduced representation from the country's predominantly Pashtun south - Karzai's power base - to one that is more Tajik and Hazara heavy.
Losing candidates argue that the population in the south was unable to vote because of insecurity, intimidation and fighting with the Taliban.
Karzai's office on Wednesday announced a one-month inauguration delay, saying that the special court on election fraud needed more time to investigate complaints from losing candidates.
"Karzai's decision to postpone the inauguration signals his immense fear that this parliament as it's currently composed may take actions to remove him. And I think it also signals that he's gained very bad advise from his advisers in the palace on how to handle this crisis," said Candace Rondeaux, a senior Afghan analyst for the International Crisis Group.
"But perhaps most importantly, this decision indicates his inability to run this country anymore. He has way overstepped his bounds and if the international community doesn't say something, doesn't take a stand against this abuse of power, they should pack up and leave."
The international community has remained silent over the latest announcement by Karzai's office, although it supported the findings of the Afghan Independent Election Commission.
The commission certified the results at the end of November after throwing out more than a million ballots from around 3,000 polling stations because of suspected fraud.
Last month, Karzai appointed a special court to launch its own investigation into about 400 cases of fraud.
Daud Sultanzai, a losing candidate from the volatile Ghazni province, argues that the fraudulent actions of the election commission and other presiding bodies necessitated the formation of the special court.
He is among the leaders of a new organization formed by candidates, he says, who are seeking transparent and fair election results.
"People are already showing their dissatisfaction," he said, referring to small weekly demonstrations.
Sultanzai and other supporters of the special court argue that the election commission is fraught with irregularities. He called its actions unconstitutional and said that millions of Afghans were denied their voice by being unable to vote.
The election commission has refused to cooperate with the special court, and Afghan and international officials consider the special court illegitimate.
The potential fallout could have grave consequences.
"If Karzai uses this special court to cherry-pick among candidates that he sees as loyal to him, there will be a massive boycott not only of parliament but of the government as a whole from those candidates that are excluded," Rondeaux said.
"This country is already limping along as it is, it will be paralysis in the extreme."
On Thursday, most of the 249 elected members of parliament met in Kabul and announced they would likely go ahead with the inauguration without Karzai, though a decision would be made Saturday.
Sultanzai says such a move would be unconstitutional.
"It's the governments job to stop lawlessness, especially a lawless entry into parliament," he said.
"Parliament is a sacred place. It's a very provocative move to inaugurate parliament without the imprimatur of the executive." Rondeaux said.
"And given Karzai's behavior lately, I think he will be very tempted to use this potential event to eliminate some of his enemies. We could see arrests, we could also see a lot of violence."
The concern is that government paralysis opens a foothold for the Taliban and other groups to gain more support among the population.
Karzai's critics warn the country risks descending into chaos over failure to inaugurate parliament.
However, the inauguration could also have grave consequences and risks driving disenfranchised Pashtuns into the arms of the Taliban.
"Failure to resolve this crisis certainly will hasten the advent of civil war," Rondeaux said.