Standoff: New Egyptian president defies military, orders parliament back to work despite court ruling

Looks like this is coming to a head tomorrow so let’s start paying attention now. What’s a newly elected president to do after he’s been stripped of meaningful power by a ruling military junta? Simple: Challenge them in the name of democracy and hope that the public rallies behind him. Surely, Egyptians will support a popularly elected Islamist against their new military dictators and a Mubarak-appointed judiciary, right?


Egypt’s Supreme Court has rejected Mohammed Morsi’s decree to reinstate parliament, setting the president against the judiciary and military.

“All the rulings and decisions of the Supreme Constitutional Court are final and not subject to appeal … and are binding for all state institutions,” the court said in a statement…

“In any decent and democratic country, a president cannot disrespect the judiciary,” said Rifaat al-Said, the head of the leftist Al-Tagammu party.

“Whether Morsi likes it or not, he must respect the judiciary’s decisions,” he told state television.

Remember, the Egyptian Supreme Court ruled last month that the country’s new parliament was unconstitutionally elected. Sure looked like they were in cahoots with the junta on that; they’re all Mubarak cronies, after all, and the ruling had the convenient effect of dissolving the one key obstacle to total military control. The military promptly capitalized too, declaring that it would appoint its own panel for the all-important task of drafting the country’s new constitution. It was, in other words, a coup, barely disguised as the rule of law — and yet, according to CNN’s correspondent in the vid below, the mood in Cairo is that it’s Morsi who’s overreached by ordering parliament back into session in defiance of a Court ruling. I can’t quite believe that Egyptians respect the Court enough on the merits that they’d side with it after it just torpedoed the first democratic assembly that the country’s had in decades. Which means one of two things is happening here: Either civil order has now broken down sufficiently that the public’s come around to counterrevolutionary military rule in the name of law and order, or, more likely, fears of domination by the Muslim Brotherhood among non-Islamists are now so intense after Morsi’s victory that any new limitation on the MB’s power is cheered. Brotherhood-controlled parliament liquidated? Great! New Brotherhood-affiliated president’s bid to reconvene parliament thwarted? Great! Hooray for corrupt old-regime judges.

While Morsi probably doesn’t care if the army lets parliament reassemble, he does care how the public reacts to his challenge. The MB’s only real leverage against the junta is popular support, but if you believe CNN, there ain’t much of that. In fact, according to the Guardian, parliament itself may split over the Brotherhood’s scheduled power play tomorrow:

The speaker of the house, Saad El-Katatny, called for MPs to convene at parliament at noon on Tuesday for its first session since the court ruling and subsequent dissolution. Katatny is also affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which, through its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), holds the majority bloc in parliament.

Mahmoud Helmy of the FJP told the Guardian: “We were contacted by the general committee of the assembly to attend the session on Tuesday, and that’s what we will do. In a politicised decision, Scaf gave itself the right to dissolve parliament and created a legislative vacuum. The president revoked this decision with the very same powers that had been afforded to Scaf.”

But not all MPs support the decision to reconvene, in what they perceive to be in contravention of the law. Liberal MP Mohamed Abu Hamed told the Guardian that Morsi’s decision was “an affront to judicial authority and makes a mockery of how the state functions and the separation of powers.”

Abu Hamed said he’ll show up tomorrow but has filed suit challenging Morsi’s decree. The dissolution of parliament is wonderful news for the minority parties, after all: If/when the next elections are held, the popular backlash to Brotherhood domination should mean that the MB’s representation shrinks. The question is who’ll benefit from that, the more secular parties or the even nuttier Islamists in the Salafist parties.

Exit question via Time: Was Morsi’s “bold challenge” to the junta actually something he coordinated with military leaders?

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