Egypt’s highest court has confirmed the dissolution of the country’s parliament after it was briefly reinstated by presidential order, reaffirming the judiciary’s authority at the expense of newly elected President Mohamed Mursi.
The constitutional court halted Mursi’s most significant decision since his election win about two weeks ago, effectively banning parliament from meeting again. The legislature held a brief session yesterday after Mursi’s July 8 decree that reinstated it.
The court had ruled in June that the law governing the parliamentary vote was unconstitutional, prompting the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, at that time to dissolve the chamber and assume legislative powers. Egypt’s power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood, the military and the judiciary has escalated in the past week.
“It’s a big setback for the president,” Yasser El-Shimy, Cairo-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said by phone yesterday. “He took a very bold move by reinstating parliament, but SCAF was determined not to let it happen.”
The court ruling might give SCAF the upper hand, he said, adding that politics is “being played in the court system due to the lack of negotiation between all the political actors.”
A pro-Mursi demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that built up throughout the day, intensified after the court’s verdict last night, with tens of thousands packing the downtown area and chanting anti-military slogans.
Mahmoud El-Khodeiry, a parliamentarian with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s biggest Islamist organization, said in an interview on Misr 25 TV the ruling “doesn’t concern us, and doesn’t prevent us from convening unless force is used to do so.” The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, controls almost half of the seats in the disputed assembly.
Mursi, who comes from the ranks of the Brotherhood, was elected president with a slender majority last month. His decree that was struck down by the court had stipulated another parliamentary ballot would be held within 60 days of the approval of a new constitution in a referendum. The charter has yet to be drafted.
“We’re likely to see more legal challenges moving forward,” El-Shimy said. “Egypt will likely be stuck in the coming period in legal wrangling and it’s not going to be resolved until a constitution is written with clear guidelines on the respective authority of each branch of government.”
In the face of the political brinkmanship, Egypt’s benchmark EGX 30 Index (EGX30) increased for the first time in three days, rising 0.2 percent to 4,708.5 at yesterday’s close in Cairo.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali didn’t respond to calls to his mobile phone seeking comment on developments.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday “strongly” urged dialogue between Mursi and the military. “We’ve seen over the last few days that there’s a lot of work ahead of Egypt to keep this transition on course,” she said.
“Democracy really is about empowering citizens to determine the direction of their own country,” Clinton said during a news conference in Vietnam, adding that Egyptians want a “fully elected government making the decisions going forward.”
Clinton said she is looking forward to talks with Mursi and other officials when she visits Egypt later this month.
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