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In Egypt: Will parliament reconvene? (+video)

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court upheld its earlier ruling that one third of the country's parliament was elected illegally. Following that ruling the country's military dismissed the government. Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi aims to reconvene the lower chamber of parliament in defiance of the court. 

By Hamza HendawiAssociated Press / July 9, 2012

In this image released by the Egyptian President, an Egyptian military officer salutes President Mohammed Morsi, third from right, at a graduation ceremony at a military base east of Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's highest court insisted Monday that its ruling that led to the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated parliament was final and binding, setting up a showdown with the country's newly elected president.

AP Photo/Sheriff Abd El Minoem, Egyptian Presidency

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CAIRO

A new showdown loomed in Egypt on Monday as the country's highest court stood by its ruling that dissolved parliament last month, challenging the new Islamist president's plans to reconvene the lower chamber in defiance of the military.

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Egyptians have conflicting reactions to President Mohamed Mursi's decision to reconvene parliament in a move that highlights the power struggle with military leaders.

If he goes ahead, Mohammed Morsi would be taking a dramatic step away from the outreach that characterized his first days in office. It's a tough fight, though, and the president could lose it along with more of his already diminished powers.

The military, which handed power to Morsi on June 30 after ruling the country for 16 months, delivered a thinly-veiled warning to the president, saying it would continue to support the country's "legitimacy, constitution and law" — language that means it will not stand by and watch the rulings of the country's top court ignored or breached.

At the same time, the Supreme Constitutional Court sent out a clear signal that it will not bow to Morsi's wish, saying in a statement after an emergency meeting on Monday that its June 14 ruling to invalidate the Islamist-dominated parliament was final and binding.

"Morsi's move sets the stage for a potentially very serious political and constitutional crisis," said Michael W. Hanna, an expert on Egypt from the New York-based Century Foundation.

Morsi, through his spokesman Yasser Ali, insisted his decision to reconvene the 508-seat chamber on Tuesday was an "assertion of the popular will."

His presidential decree also calls for new parliamentary elections after a new constitution is adopted, something that is not expected before the end of the year — in effect according legitimacy to a legislature the country's highest court ruled to be invalid.

In its ruling last month, the supreme court determined that a third of parliament's members were illegally elected under a law that allowed candidates from political parties to compete for seats that had been set aside for independents. Based on that verdict, the then-ruling military disbanded the house, in which Islamists controlled more than 70 percent of the seats.

In the days that followed, the generals pushed through a series of decrees that gave themselves legislative powers, as well as control over the drafting of a new constitution and the national budget. It also stripped Morsi of significant presidential powers.

The high court was to rule Tuesday — the same day parliament was set to reconvene — on three cases questioning the legality of the president's order.

The dispute over the fate of parliament has divided the nation just as Egyptians were looking forward to a semblance of stability after the tumult of the 17 months since the ouster of longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak. Egypt has seen a dramatic surge in crime, deadly street protests, a faltering economy and seemingly non-stop strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations.

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