Egypt MPs convene after Mursi defies military

Presidential decree reestablishing legislature sparks legal, political debate.

Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Mursi 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Mursi 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Egyptian MPs entered the parliament building on Monday for the first time since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) dissolved the assembly last month.
The move, reported by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, came hours after President Mohamed Mursi issued a controversial new decree that overruled the military’s decision to dissolve the Islamist-dominated parliament.
The president’s decision has increased tensions with SCAF – the 20-strong military junta that ruled Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year – which backs a June 14 court ruling that said a third of MPs had been elected illegally.
Last month the Muslim Brotherhood strongly opposed the dissolution of parliament, accusing the military of a power grab.
Hours after Mursi’s decree, SCAF convened an emergency meeting to “review and discuss the consequences,” MENA reported. Meanwhile, despite the strain, Mursi and SCAF commander in chief Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi both attended an armed forces graduation ceremony on Monday, with the president even tweeting a photograph of himself seated next to Tantawi at the event.
Later on Monday, adding to the tension, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court announced that its rulings are final and binding on all state authorities, effectively saying the president does not have the authority to reverse its ruling to dissolve parliament.
The court said it was “not party to any political conflict” but that the scope of its mission was to protect the constitution and prevent violations against it, according to MENA.
The court added that it holds “exclusive jurisdiction over the constitutionality of laws.”
Mursi’s decree has sparked heated debate in Egypt about the extent of the president’s powers, and has highlighted divisions between Islamist and non-Islamist MPs – with the former vowing Monday to support Mursi’s decision and many of the latter saying they would boycott parliamentary speaker Saad al-Katatni’s call to reconvene in the parliament building on Tuesday.
On Monday afternoon the Muslim Brotherhood vowed to stand by the president’s decree.
Also on Monday afternoon, a group of Egyptian lawyers filed a complaint with prosecutor-general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, accusing Mursi of violating the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration and the Egyptian penal code by going against the High Constitutional Court ruling and recalling parliament, the Medan el- Tahrir news site reported.
Meanwhile, Al-Wafd, the newspaper of the liberal-democratic Neo-Wafd party, reported that there have been a number of lawsuits filed in Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court against Mursi’s decree, including by leftist MP Abul Ezz el- Hariri.
The debate also spilled over into Egyptian cyberspace, with politicians and ordinary Egyptians expressing their views on social media sites. Former presidential candidate Khaled Ali tweeted that Mursi’s decree was a “power struggle,” while Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh told his Twitter followers the president’s decision was “unconstitutional.”
Mursi posted his decision to reconvene parliament on his official Facebook page late Sunday night, sparking a storm of comments. Almost 11,000 Egyptians “liked” the post by Monday afternoon, and over 6,800 others wrote comments.
Katatni, Wasat Party MP Essam Sultan and attorney Nizar Ghorab have previously filed complaints against the decision, demanding that the People’s Assembly be permitted to enter the parliament building and arguing that preventing them from doing so violated their legal rights as representatives of the people.
An Egyptian court decided on Monday that it will hear those appeals later this week.
In addition to annulling the dissolution of parliament, the presidential decree also stipulates a new law that will regulate the parliament and sets out that parliamentary elections will take place within 60 days of the adoption of a new constitution.
That move came in the wake of another controversial SCAF decree, issued shortly before the presidential runoff elections, that conferred on the military significant legislative powers in the time before a new parliament is elected.