Egypt's president on Sunday ordered the country's Islamist-dominated parliament to reconvene in defiance of a military decree dissolving the legislature last month following a court ruling that a third of its members were illegally elected, the state news agency reported.
The surprise move by the Islamist Mohammed Morsi will almost certainly lead to a clash with the powerful generals who formally handed power to him on June 30 after spending 16 months at the nation's helm following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising.
The decree by Morsi, a longtime Muslim Brotherhood member, also called for new parliamentary elections to be held within 60 days of the adoption of a new constitution for the country, which is not expected before late this year.
Last month, the then-ruling military generals dissolved the legislature based on the ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court, the country's highest tribunal.
The military announced a "constitutional declaration" on June 16 that gave it legislative powers in the absence of parliament and stripped Morsi of much of his presidential authority. It also gave the generals control over the process of drafting a new constitution and immunity from any civilian oversight.
Morsi came to power after narrowly defeating Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, in a June 16-17 runoff. He was declared the winner on June 24. He symbolically took the oath of office five days later at Tahrir Square, birthplace of the revolt that toppled Mubarak's regime on Feb. 11, 2001.
He took the formal oath the next day before the Supreme Constitutional Court and later during a speech at Cairo University before hundreds of his supporters, including many of the dissolved legislature's lawmakers.
A conservative Islamist, Morsi's move may have been inspired in large part by a desire to assert his authority in the face of the military, which has been the country's de facto ruler since army officers seized power in a 1952 coup that toppled the monarchy. But Morsi's defiance of a ruling by the country's highest court could backfire, leading to charges that he has no respect for the judiciary.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the formal name of the body that groups the country's top generals, has yet to comment on Morsi's decree.