Egypt parliament calls on appeals court to rule on dissolution
POLITICIANS IN Egypt met in formal session yesterday long enough to defy the military and the supreme constitutional court by calling upon the appeals court to rule on last month’s dissolution of the lower house of parliament.
The meeting came 48 hours after the country’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, reinstated the fundamentalist-dominated people’s assembly until the new constitution is approved and another assembly elected.
The constitutional court retaliated by pronouncing invalid the presidential decree recalling the assembly. Although an instant showdown was averted when the deputies referred the case to the appeals court, Mr Morsi’s ultimate aim seems to be to strip the military of the authority to legislate, assumed when it dissolved the house, and confer on the assembly a caretaker role until it is replaced.
If successful, he could try to recoup executive functions still held by the military, giving the Brotherhood control over the executive, the legislature and the assembly-appointed commission writing the new constitution.
As the deputies met, clashes erupted outside parliament. Supporters of the challenge chanted, “The people and president are one hand [hand-in-hand],” while opponents cried: “Down with the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader.” Mr Morsi resigned from his posts in the movement ahead of his inauguration.
A rally called by the Brotherhood in Cairo’s Tahrir Square appears to have been postponed after supporters of the military demonstrated against Mr Morsi outside the presidential palace. Clashes in the streets of the capital would not suit the Brotherhood’s purposes.
On Monday, the supreme court declared there could be no appeal against its June 14th ruling that the election of one-third of the deputies in the assembly was invalid because they were party affiliates standing for seats reserved for independents.
The next day the military used the judgment to dismiss the entire house and take over its functions, setting the stage for the ongoing power struggle between the generals and the Brothers.
Legislator Essam al-Erian, deputy head of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm, defended Mr Morsi’s initiative. Mr Erian argued that it reflected the “struggle between the will of the people and the desire to restore former president Hosni Mubarak’s regime”, which was rooted in the military.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who is due to visit Egypt this weekend, pressed the military and the Brotherhood to work together to resolve their differences through dialogue.
Mr Morsi is set to name his prime minister today, before he leaves for Saudi Arabia on his first trip abroad since his election.
Meanwhile, in the decades-old battle between the Brotherhood and the secular establishment, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, rector of al-Azhar university, the premier institution of Sunni learning, has come down firmly on the side of liberals and moderate Muslims.
He ruled that in its new constitution, Egypt should retain the formulation of article 2 of the 1971 document that states that the “principles” of Islamic law, Sharia, should remain the source of law in the country and that the constitutional court should dismiss any attempt to alter this article.
While secularists and liberals insist that the article must remain unchanged to maintain the “civil” or secular nature of the state, Salafis and conservative members of the Brotherhood are pressing for the removal of the word “principles” so that Sharia could become the law of the land and Egypt could, ultimately, be transformed into an “Islamic state”.