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MORSI DECREES PARLIAMENT RESTORED July 10, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East.
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The Constitutional Court, before whom Egyptian President Morsi was sworn into office, had declared that the elected Parliament was invalid. Now the newly installed president has issued a decree to overturn that ruling. The game is afoot.

Imran Khan reporting for Al Jareera takes a pessimistic view of the presidential decree, suggesting the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has the constitutional prerogatives, given that a new constitution has yet to be approved by referendum:

At The New York Times, Kareem Fahim and Mayy el Sheikh report:

Much hinged on varying readings of Mr. Morsi’s intentions. Some saw in the wording of the decree a narrow rebuke of the military and an overruling of a largely administrative order by the generals, rather than a broader challenge to the courts.

Mr. Eid, the human rights lawyer, called the decree “100 percent correct.” “It abolishes an executive order, and it is not related to the constitutional court,” he said. “It negates the decision of the military council.”

He added, “If the choice is between the decree of an elected president and a military council with questionable legitimacy, then we choose the elected president.”

Others, though, saw it as an attack by Mr. Morsi on the judiciary, and an overreach in his drive to expand his powers. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former diplomat and a leading liberal politician, posted on Twitter that “the executive decision to overrule the constitutional court is turning Egypt from a government of law into a government of men.”

Michael Wahid Hanna, a scholar at the Century Foundation, said Mr. Morsi’s decree disregarded the rule of law, even though the constitutional court was seen as politicized. “We don’t have to agree with its decisions,” Mr. Hanna said of the court. “He’s reinstating an unconstitutional Parliament. I think it’s got disastrous consequences.”

The Supreme Constitutional Court has declared that the president cannot reconvene the parliament after it dissolved it.While the conflict between the President and the Court has all the appearances of a constitutional crisis, it is relevant to consider some of the background. Al Jareera reports:

In June, two days before the presidential election began, the court ruled that the legislature had been elected using an unconstitutional method, since political parties were allowed to run for seats reserved for individuals.

The court’s rebuke came just hours after the speaker of the dissolved parliament, Saad el-Katatni, called for the chamber to convene on Tuesday.

Katatni and Morsi are both members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which won nearly half of the seats in the assembly through its Freedom and Justice Party. Analysts believe that the military council and state institutions still packed with old regime loyalists have attempted to constrain the Brotherhood in the months since their parliamentary gains.

Days after the court dissolved parliament, and just minutes after polls closed in the presidential election, the military issued a unilateral package of constitutional amendments stripping the president of his role as commander in chief, asserting autonomy over their budget and affairs, and assuming the power to legislate until a new parliament could be elected.

The amendments were seen as a pre-emptive attempt to limit Morsi’s powers, should he win.

The Parliament has been convened to write the draft of the constitution, which will then be subject to the acceptance of the electors, at which time the Parliament will be dissolved allowing new elections.

In that case it seems to me it is not the President who is wrong in principle; it is rather that the SCAF have not got their heads around democratic practice. If the nascent Egyptian democracy were to founder, in what is a difficult transition, then I suggest the blame will lie both with the military’s adherence to political and economic power and its crucial external support.

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Related Articles:

  • Egypt Court Challenges Mursi’s Re-opening of Paliament(BBC News)John Leyne in Cairo observes:

    On the face of it, the court’s pronouncement means that President Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood are on course for a confrontation, both with the military and with the courts.

    In practice it’s not quite so simple.

    All the court did last month was to rule that part of the election for parliament was unconstitutional. It didn’t order the dissolution of parliament — that was done by the military. So President Mursi is not going directly against a court order.

    As for the military, they are not acting at the moment as if they are preparing for a showdown with the Brotherhood – rather the opposite.

UPDATE:

Obviously this is an unfolding story. Now if Morsi is playing the long game, and can garner public support, then he is a match for SCAF and a politician of some skill, which will be a good thing for Egyptian democracy. Juan Cole makes the Informed Comment:

Morsi took on not only SCAF but also the Egyptian courts. So, as soon as Morsi issued an executive order instructing parliament to reconvene, the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled his decree unconstitutional. Morsi dismissed the new ruling, saying that the SCC lacked the prerogative to make such a ruling.

Then the speaker of the House, Katatni, took the floor at the brief parliamentary meeting, saying that parliament wanted the Supreme Administrative court to rule on the dissolution of parliament. the Supreme Administrative Court has the authority to over-rule the president.

The supreme Administrative court has said that it will not rule until next Tuesday

Katatni’s call for the courts to rule on the dissolution of parliament came as a surprise to me. What if the court rules against the Brotherhood? What of the bravado about staying in session until new elections are held.

There are two possibilities here. One is that the Brotherhood has decided to step back from the brink to which Morsi had taken them.

The other is that the Brotherhood is attempting to maneuver SCAF into acknowledging that it should have been a civilian court that decided to implement the the Supreme Constituional Court’s ruling. Morsi may be playing a long game, and carefully asserting his authority, and that of other civilian actors, over the military.

The coming days will inform us as to which is the case.

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