Not so defiant: Egypt's parliament meets for 5 minutes

Egypt's parliament defied a military order for its dissolution and convened briefly today, but did so merely to determine how to respond to a Supreme Court ruling declaring the parliament invalid.

Khalil Hamra/AP
The Egyptian parliament building in Cairo, Tuesday, July 10. Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament convened Tuesday in defiance of a ruling by the country's highest court and swiftly voted to seek a legal opinion on the decision that invalidated the chamber over apparent election irregularities.

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Egypt's parliament reconvened today in defiance of the order for its dissolution, though it quickly adjourned in a move that could mitigate the potential discord between recently inaugurated President Mohammed Morsi and the military.

Al Jazeera reports that the parliamentary session lasted only five minutes, beginning after a brief speech from Speaker Saad al-Katatni of the Muslim Brotherhood, who said that the legislative body had gathered only "to review the court rulings, the ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court." Last month the court declared the parliament invalid, prompting Egypt's interim military leaders to dissolve the legislature. 

"I want to stress, we are not contradicting the ruling, but looking at a mechanism for the implementation of the ruling of the respected court. There is no other agenda today," he added.

Mr. Katatni then proposed that parliament seek help from an appeals court in implementing the Supreme Court ruling. Parliament approved Katatni's proposal and adjourned. Ahram Online reports that parliament's decision to defer to the courts is being seen as a "possible compromise between the Muslim Brotherhood and Military Council, thus staving off what looked to be a serious constitutional and political crisis."

Parliament will not meet again until the appeals court gives its verdict, according to Ahram Online. 

The brief, perfunctory nature of the session appears to at least temporarily put the brakes on the collision course that the military and President Morsi had been on. Morsi's order revoking the dissolution of the parliament directly challenged the military's authority in "a bold and significant step," Khalil al-Anani, an expert on Islamist movements at Durham University, told the Monitor. "...This decree reflects Morsi's sense of self-assertiveness and confidence,” he said. “The question is to what extent Morsi can defy the military and challenge their power.”

Morsi's order to reconvene the parliament prompted the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to hold emergency meetings over the past two days to determine how to respond. And the Supreme Court declared yesterday that its June 14 ruling was final and binding. In addition, Ahram Online reports that yesterday the Judges' Club, an unofficial body of Egyptian jurists, threatened Morsi with legal action should he not revoke his order within 36 hours.

But even in convening parliament, the president and his Muslim Brotherhood allies appear to be paying lip service to the Supreme Court's ruling.  Acting presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said today that Morsi's reinstatement of parliament was not in conflict with the order, but was necessary to determine how to comply, according to the Egypt State Information Service. 

Monique El-Faizy, a project leader at the World Policy Institute, told CNN that she thought a full-blown conflict between Morsi and the military was unlikely, and that both sides would step carefully. "I think it's the delicate balancing act that we're going to see for a while," said Ms. El-Faizy. "This is all new. Everybody's finding their way."

Reuters reports that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called upon the Egyptian president and the military to come to a negotiated agreement to avoid losing what progress has been made in Egypt.

"We strongly urge dialogue and concerted effort on the part of all to try to deal with the problems that are understandable but have to be resolved in order to avoid any kind of difficulties that could derail the transition that is going on," Clinton told a news conference. ...

She called for "intense dialogue" among all participants "to ensure that there is a clear path for them to be following and that the Egyptian people get what they protested for and what they voted for, which is a fully elected government".

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