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Egypt’s highest court confirmed the dissolution of parliament after it was briefly reinstated by President Mohamed Mursi, dealing a blow to the authority of the newly elected leader. Mursi said he would respect the decision.
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.
“The new constitutional court ruling is putting us in a legal maze,” Khaled al-Anani, a political analyst at Durham University in the U.K., said by phone today. “Mursi is trying to solidify his position by reinstating the parliament, but his decision came too soon given the polarization of revolutionary forces and their division over the Brotherhood, while the SCAF want to preserve their interests and privileges.”
Mursi said he would respect yesterday’s court ruling, “because we are a nation” of law, in a statement carried today by the state-run Middle East News Agency.
“It’s a big setback for the president,” Yasser el-Shimy, Cairo-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said by phone yesterday. 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.”
Mahmoud el-Khodeiry, a parliamentarian with close ties to the Brotherhood, the country’s biggest Islamist organization, said in an interview on Misr 25 TV that 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 also 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,” said el-Shimy. “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.”
Members of the court are “from the old regime” and “naturally don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood to be in control,” said al-Anani. As a state institution that ought to be independent, the court has exceeded its jurisdiction by ruling on sovereign matters, he said.
The newly elected president will make his first foreign trip today to Saudi Arabia where he may try to strengthen ties with the kingdom’s rulers, who have been traditionally allied to Egypt’s deposed leader Hosni Mubarak. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and the region’s biggest economy, can help Egypt’s struggling economy and has pledged almost $4 billion in aid.
Mursi’s trip to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, follows an invitation from King Abdullah, the Egyptian state-run Middle East News Agency said, citing Saudi ambassador to Cairo Ahmed Qattan. Qattan said he expected the visit to boost Saudi investments in Egypt, it reported.
“Mursi wants to send the message: ‘Don’t be afraid of us. We want to work with you and put our past disagreements aside,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, said by phone. “It shows the Brotherhood’s pragmatism on foreign policy. Everyone knows that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and the Brotherhood is very tense and Gulf financial support is going to be important for Egypt’s economic recovery so it deserves additional attention.”
Egypt needs at least $5 billion in long-term financing for strategic food commodities and development projects to create jobs, Finance Minister Momtaz el-Saieed said during a meeting with a delegation from the Islamic Development Bank earlier this month, according to a statement.
Egypt’s benchmark EGX 30 Index (EGX30) increased for a second day, rising 1 percent at 11:45 a.m. in Cairo. The yield on the country’s 5.75 percent dollar bonds due 2020 was little changed at 6.26 percent, near the lowest level since November.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali didn’t respond to calls to his mobile phone seeking comment on developments.
To contact the reporters on this story: Ahmed A. Namatalla in Cairo at firstname.lastname@example.org; Abdel Latif Wahba in Cairo at email@example.com
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