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MIDEAST > Egypt’s assembly meets defying army, judiciary

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Egyptian parliament reconvenes, upon Morsi’s call, in an open challenge to the country’s top court and military, which dissolved the governing body last month

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Egyptian Parliament Speaker Saad al-Katatni presides over a session of Parliament, the first since the country’s high court ruled the chamber unconstitutional in Cairo. AP photo

Egyptian Parliament Speaker Saad al-Katatni presides over a session of Parliament, the first since the country’s high court ruled the chamber unconstitutional in Cairo. AP photo

Egypt’s Islamist-dominated Parliament convened yesterday in defiance of a ruling by the country’s highest court, and swiftly voted to seek a legal opinion on the decision that invalidated the chamber over apparent election irregularities.

The lawmakers’ session was brief, lasting just five minutes, but it pushed Egypt deeper into a potential power struggle between new President Mohamed Morsi and the powerful military, which has vowed to uphold the judicial ruling that led to the Parliament being dissolved. The crisis atmosphere has grown steadily since Morsi issued an order on June 30 to reconvene the 508-seat legislature. His executive order said it was revoking the military’s June 15 order to disband the chamber based on the previous ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court. The court said a third of the chamber’s members were elected illegally by allowing candidates from political parties to contest seats set aside for independent candidates.

Parliament Speaker Saad al-Katatni told lawmakers that the legislature met to find ways to implement the court ruling rather than debate it out of respect for the principles of “the supremacy of the law and separation of authorities.” However, he put forward a plan to seek what amounts to a “second opinion” from an appeals court on the ruling, although it was not immediately clear whether the appeals court would accept the legislature’s request. “I invited you to convene in accordance with the decree issued by the president,” said al-Katatni, who like Morsi hails from the Brotherhood. “I would like to confirm that the presidential decree does not violate the court order.” 

Both Morsi and al-Katatni are longtime members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic group that has long been at odds with successive Egyptian governments. Shortly before al-Katatni opened the session, the United States urged all sides to engage in talks to safeguard the political transition in Egypt, a close U.S. ally over the three decades of ousted Hosni Mubarak’s rule. 

“We urge that there be intensive dialogue among all of the stakeholders in order to ensure that there is a clear path for them to be following,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday told a press conference after talks in Vietnam.

Warning from military

In its only public comment on the dispute given July 9, the military defended its action to dissolve the Parliament and delivered a thinly veiled warning to Morsi which said the armed forces sided with the “constitution, legitimacy and law.”

The army said it was confident that “all state institutions” would respect the constitution and the law. Nevertheless, the army has not taken any steps to prevent lawmakers from entering Parliament. After meeting with Morsi yesterday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the Egyptian president had assured him he respected the authority of the country’s constitutional court. 

“[Morsi] assured me that he does not aim to question the decision of the constitutional court, but that this is rather about how to organize the ruling’s implementation,” Westerwelle said. 

The military handed over power to Morsi on June 30 after ruling Egypt for 16 months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. In the run-up to the handover, the military declared itself the country’s legislative authority in the absence of a Parliament and gave itself control over the drafting of a new constitution and the national budget. The generals also stripped Morsi of significant powers.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.

July/11/2012

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