Afghan Lawmakers Come to Blows Over Karzai Impeachment

The parliamentarians hurled shoes and water bottles during a heated debate

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It's easy to forget amidst all this debt ceiling talk, but the U.S. isn't the only country whose legislature is engaged in heated debate. On Tuesday, a discussion in the Afghan parliament about whether to impeach President Hamid Karzai turned violent when two female lawmakers threw shoes, water bottles, and punches at one another. It's unclear what the argument was about--The New York Times says support for Karzai, CNN says rocket attacks from Pakistan, and AFP says the reputation of Vice President Mohammad Kasim Fahim. Whatever the spark, the brawl was captured by Afghanistan's Tolo Television Network (it starts about two minutes into the clip):

As was the case when Kuwaiti lawmakers exchanged punches over Guantanamo in May and Kyrgyz lawmakers battled over a corruption scandal in April, yesterday's fight is about more than just theatrics--it speaks to fundamental tensions in Afghanistan's nascent democracy. As the Times explains, the primary issue driving a wedge through parliament involves the special court Karzai established to settle fraud allegations stemming from last September's parliamentary elections. The court, whose authority Afghan election officials and the international community haven't recognized, recently determined that 62 current members of parliament should be replaced by the challengers who brought the allegations, many of whom are Karzai's allies. Tuesday's brawl, the Times notes, is a sign of "the near-total breakdown of relations between the Parliament and the president as the country teeters on the brink of a constitutional crisis." With the government paralyzed, the paper explains, Karzai has essentially been "ruling by decree," but if the standoff continues he may dissolve parliament or arrest opposition lawmakers, "either of which could turn violent." Ten members of parliament are now boycotting the chamber to protest yesterday's fight, according to the BBC.
While there have been numerous parliamentary fights in recent years--from South Korea to Taiwan--the massive brawl in the Ukrainian parliament last year, which started as a debate over a Russian naval base and ended with flying eggs, tomatoes, and smoke bombs, is arguably the most memorable:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.