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Africa

Egypt parliament meets in defiance of top court, army

©

Video by Kathryn STAPLEY

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-07-10

Egypt’s parliament convened on Tuesday in an open challenge to the country’s military and judicial powers, just one day after the Supreme Constitutional Court dismissed President Mohammed Morsi’s decree reinstating the dissolved legislative body.

In an act of defiance, Egypt’s parliament convened on Tuesday, just one day after the country’s top court dismissed President Mohammed Morsi’s decree reinstating the dissolved legislative body. The meeting is the latest move in a game between rival camps for control over Egypt’s burgeoning political scene.

Following the parliamentary session, Speaker Saad al-Katatni said that the meeting had been held to examine a ruling by the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court last month, which had found that certain elements of a law governing legislative elections were invalid, thereby voiding the house.

“We are gathered here today to review the court rulings, the ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court,” al-Katatni said. “I want to stress, we are not contradicting the ruling, but looking at a mechanism for the implementation of the ruling of the respected court. There is no other agenda today.”

Struggle for power

While on the surface the dispute centres on the legality of Morsi’s decision to reinstate parliament, at the heart of the issue is an ongoing struggle between Egypt’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the military over control of the country.

Morsi, who was elected president on June 24 in Egypt’s first-ever competitive elections, ran as the Muslim Brotherhood’s chosen candidate. Just days before Morsi took power, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which had governed the country since former president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, dismantled parliament using the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling as a pretext.

Prior to its dissolution, Egypt’s parliament was controlled by a Muslim Brotherhood majority. With the house out of the way, the country’s interim military rulers seized legislative control, granting itself broad authority in a move largely criticised as a power grab.

Battle over parliament

The latest wrangling over parliament began on Sunday, July 8, after Morsi issued a decree reinstating the house in a direct challenge to its dissolution. While few expected that Morsi’s tenure as president would take off without a hitch, many were taken aback by the aggressive move.

SCAF called for an urgent meeting the same day, taking care not to issue a public response. The Supreme Constitutional Court held an emergency session on Monday, ultimately deciding to strike down Morsi’s decree.

“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 that directly questioned the constitutionality of Morsi’s decision.

Refusing to back down, Morsi’s administration argued that his decree “neither contradicts nor contravenes the ruling by the constitutional court,” adding that it took the people’s best interests into account.

‘Constitutional coup’

According to Sarouat Badaoui, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Cairo, Morsi was completely within his rights as president to reinstate parliament.

“The president can summon parliament because the judicial branch did not have the authority to dissolve it. Only a head of state has the right to do so,” Badaoui told FRANCE 24.

“The Supreme Constitutional Court cannot decide on its own. It can render a judgment, which applies to everyone including the president and the army, but it cannot under any circumstances dissolve the house,” he added.

However, some have argued that Morsi’s decree was a poorly disguised attempt at hijacking the country’s constitution.

“Morsi’s decision is a constitutional coup. The president doesn’t have the right to override a court’s ruling, especially that of the country’s highest court. Even Hosni Mubarak didn’t go that far,” said Aboulezz al-Hairiri, a former parliamentarian and fierce critic of the Muslim Brotherhood. “I will not go to a parliamentary session because the house has been dissolved. That means that I am no longer a parliamentarian, but just a citizen like everyone else.”

As fears that the protracted dispute could thrust the country into renewed political turmoil, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for talks on the issue.

“We strongly urge dialogue and concerted effort on the part of all to try to deal with the problems that are understandable but have to be resolved in order to avoid any kind of difficulties that could derail the transitition that is going on,” she said at a press conference.

Date created : 2012-07-10

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