Egypt’s Morsi makes bid to reinstate Islamist parliament (WASHINGTON POST) By Steve Hendrix CAIRO, EGYPT 07/08/12)
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CAIRO — President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday ordered Egypt’s Islamist-
dominated parliament back in session, boldly defying the military
leaders who had disbanded the body just a month ago. The generals
went into an emergency session within hours of the decree.
According to Egypt’s official news agency, Morsi reversed the June 15
annulment of parliament by the military council, which had been
ruling the country until he took office late last month, and ordered
lawmakers back to work. A majority of the legislators are members of
the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party — to which Morsi
belongs — or other Islamist groups.
Morsi also called for parliamentary elections to be held within 60
days of the approval of a new constitution, which is expected later
The decree is considered pivotal by many observers, who have been
waiting to see how the fledgling government would respond to the
military council’s grab of executive powers on the eve of the
Just a week after being sworn in, Morsi answered with a direct
challenge to the generals, signaling that the unfolding power
struggle between the armed forces and the once-banned Muslim
Brotherhood would not be a one-sided fight.
“No one is going to dismiss Morsi as a figurehead now,” said Shadi
Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in
Qatar. “They had to do something to fight back and gain the momentum.
Assuming it wasn’t pre-
negotiated [with the military], and it doesn’t look like it was, it’s
certainly an aggressive first move.”
The decree further confuses Egypt’s tumultuous transition from
dictatorship to democracy just one week before a planned visit to
Cairo by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Morsi’s gambit
could mark the start of a prolonged game of brinkmanship between an
entrenched military and a government with popular support.
Morsi’s opponents were quick to accuse him of overreaching.
“The Egyptian Army now is responsible before god and history and the
people to protect the law and the constitution,” wrote independent
parliament member Muhammed Abu Hamed by Twitter.
But the president’s supporters among the Islamists hailed the decree.
Mohamed Saad Katatny, head of the dissolved parliament, said in a
statement that the legislative body would try to hold a session as
soon as possible.
“Which is constitutionally stronger, a president elected by the
people’s free will? Or a group who wants a military rule,” party
Chairman Essam el-Erian said via Twitter. “The armed forces are not
responsible for legitimacy, the people are.”
Few can predict where the standoff will head next. Given the profound
disarray of Egypt’s governing institutions, few can even say who had
the authority to arbitrate.
The military dissolved parliament after a June 14 ruling by the
Supreme Constitutional Court that one-third of the members of the
lower house had been elected unlawfully.
The ruling was a significant setback for Morsi’s Freedom and Justice
Party, which had just under half of the seats in parliament. The
judges are appointees of the Hosni Mubarak era and are widely assumed
to have acted with the blessing, if not the prodding, of the generals.
The next day, in addition to dissolving the parliament, the military
council took sole control of its own budget and a range of national
Morsi’s decree coincided with a visit to Cairo by Deputy Secretary of
State William Burns, who said Washington would help jump-start
Egypt’s ailing economy.
“Egyptians know far better than we do that their aspirations are not
yet fully realized,” Burns told reporters after meeting with
Morsi. “But they can count on America’s partnership on the
complicated road ahead.”
According to Hamid, Morsi may have created an opening for a solution
that would serve both parties. Reseating the parliament would give
Morsi an invaluable legislative boost as he struggles to form his
government. At the same time, ensuring relatively quick elections
would give the military the new parliament it craves for the longer
The two sides could be dancing toward some kind of settlement, Hamid
said. “The Brotherhood makes an aggressive move, the military reacts,
and then they sit down and negotiate something,” he said. “I think it
was a good first move. At least something is going to happen now.”
Hassan Elnaggar contributed to this report. (© 2010 The Washington
Post Company 07/08/12)
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