Egyptian Parliament Meets, Defying Military and Supreme Court
Egypt’s dissolved Parliament met briefly today in adherence to a decree from recently elected President Mohamed Morsi and in defiance of a Supreme Constitutional Court order and of the country’s most senior generals. Lawmakers only met long enough to approve a proposal by the speaker, Saad el-Katatni of the Muslim Brotherhood, to refer the military’s dissolution of Parliament in June to the Court of Cassation, a high appeals court. Legislators were able to gather in the Parliament building in Cairo.
Egypt’s Parliament is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s party. The military’s call to dissolve it, backed up with a judicial order, and Mursi’s call to reconvene indicate nothing than less than the “long-running battle” between the Islamists and the military going back to the rule of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak, says the New York Times.
An Old Rivalry Made Apparent Again
In disbanding Egypt’s Parliament on the even of the first free elections in 30 years, the military also seized complete legislative power for itself until a new Parliament can be elected, and assigned itself a strong role in writing Egypt’s new constitution.
But BBC’s Jon Leyne says that Morsi’s decree, while an “assertion” of his new power as president, could actually end up being a “fairly meaningless gesture.” Any laws Parliament passes now are likely to be struck down by the courts.
Later on Monday, Morsi was seen seated beside Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the leader of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), during a graduation at a military college.
The Supreme Constitutional Court, saying that its role is “apolitical,” then decreed that the June 14th ruling to dissolve Parliament stood as “the law governing Egypt’s first democratic elections in more than six decades was unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents was binding and final.”
Morsi countered by defending his decree, saying that his calling for the election of a new Parliament “showed his respect for the court’s rulings.” The military followed with a statement, saying that it had disbanded Parliament and taken on new powers due to “necessity and the political, judicial and constitutional circumstances the country is going through.”
A Struggle For Power Between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Military
The US and other countries have expressed concerns about what the standoff means, says the New York Times.
The brinkmanship and the profusion of legal arguments clouded a subtler duel between the Brotherhood and the military. In many ways the court and the president are proxies for a fight between the nation’s oldest and most influential Islamist organization and appointees of the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak. In Egypt’s postrevolt politics, their ideological struggle has been eclipsed by a more fundamental conflict, between “elected and unelected parts of the state,” Professor Ghobashy said.
During its decades as Mr. Mubarak’s principal opposition, the Brotherhood was officially banned but allowed to operate, with its leaders frequently jailed to further keep the organization in line. Professor Ghobashy said that although the military realized that the “Mubarak model” was no longer an option, “they want to figure out some stable way to allow” the Brotherhood into power.
That is, the Brotherhood, with popularly elected President Morsi at the helm, and the army are engaged in a power struggle reflecting longstanding political and ideological divisions.
The Brotherhood had announced that there would be a “million-man march in support of the president’s decision and reinstating parliament” in Tahrir Square on Tuesday. But, in a possible sign of change, as the BBC reports, this massive protest does not appear to have taken place.
This time around, says Leyne, the struggle seems likely to “be played out mostly in the courtrooms and the backrooms of politics, rather than on the streets.”
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Photo by Wessam Dewany