President Mohamed Morsi
Cairo, July 9: Egypt’s constitutional court insisted today that an earlier court decision that led to the dissolving of parliament must stand, ratcheting up a confrontation with the new President a day after he tried to reclaim legislative authority by unexpectedly ordering the country’s Islamist-led parliament to reconvene.
State television said that the Supreme Constitutional Court, after discussing President Mohamed Morsi’s order yesterday, refused to reconsider its decision, affirming that it was final and binding, news agencies reported. The development seemed to deepen the prospects for a confrontation between Morsi and his Islamist supporters on the one hand, and the military council and the courts on the other.
Earlier in the day, Morsi had appeared to be seeking to ease the sense of building confrontation. He attended a military graduation ceremony during which he was shown on television sitting next to Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the leader of the military council. The two men chatted with one another, and Morsi smiled as he watched a karate demonstration by the cadets.
But by mid-day today, the military had made no official response to Morsi’s action, which struck many observers as an audacious challenge to the generals’ authority.
Some analysts said it seemed likely that the army had known of his plans, while others found it hard to believe the generals would tolerate such an open challenge to their power. “The decree could create a political crisis,” said Gamal Eid, a prominent human rights lawyer, yesterday. “He has been waiting to make a decision to prove he is President of a republic.”
Before the court’s position was announced, the possibility of any immediate clash at the parliament building seemed to have faded. The parliament speaker, Saad el-Katatni, said the group’s first session would be delayed until tomorrow.
State media reported that the guards outside the parliament building had already let in at least one of the members, and a political party said that half of the contingent of guards who had been stationed outside the building for weeks had been sent back to their barracks. Guards outside said they would not prevent members from entering.
But the court’s insistence raised new concerns over the potential volatility of public frustration with the military’s continued grip on power, and with elements of the establishment supporting it.
Last month, just before the presidential election, the military council ordered parliament dissolved after the court ruled that the law under which it had been elected was partly unconstitutional. In the same stroke, the military assumed legislative power and severely limited the authority of the presidency, in what many likened to a coup aimed at curbing the power of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that held about half the seats in parliament.
When Morsi, the Brotherhood’s candidate, won the presidency, many wondered whether he would directly confront the military council, known as the SCAF, or seek an accommodation, an approach the Brotherhood often seemed to favour.
“This could be the early signs of a deal, or the early signs of a battle between the military council and the Brothers,” said Ahmed Ragheb, a human rights lawyer. “Morsi used his powers as president, just like the military used its power as acting President before.”
The announcement yesterday suggested that Morsi was willing to stake his credibility on a challenge to the military’s version of power sharing, which left the President’s legislative agenda and even his budget dependent on the generals.