Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi Sunday ordered the country’s dissolved parliament back in session in his first public challenge of the ruling military council that some consider an extension of the 30-year regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.
Morsi’s decision overriding the military council threatens the fragile relationship between the generals and Morsi, who was the head of the political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group banned from political participation under Mubarak.
If the parliament reconvenes, it could mark the start of a push by the new president to assert his executive authority over the military council, which has governed directly or in the shadows since modern Egypt was created with the 1952 overthrow of the country’s monarchy.
Morsi’s decision comes on the eve of an administrative court’s ruling on an appeal filed by members of Egypt’s first democratically parliament challenging the decision by the military rulers to dissolve it. They did so after Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court invalidated the largely Islamist parliament.
Morsi also called Sunday for new elections within 60 days after a new constitution is ratified.
Saad el Katatni, the head of the dissolved parliament, said he welcomed the president’s action. The military rulers responded to Morsi’s move by holding an emergency meeting with the high court, but otherwise took no immediate action.
Essam al Erian, the vice chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party and a member of the dissolved parliament, said on Twitter that, “The armed forces are not responsible for the legitimacy (of parliament); the people are the ones responsible.”
But Mohamed ElBaradei, the former chief of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency and Nobel prize winner who ran for Egypt’s presidency, criticized Morsi’s move, saying on Twitter, “The executive decision to overrule the Constitutional Court is turning Egypt from a government of law into a government of men.”
Morsi took the oath in front of the court whose ruling led to the dissolution of the parliament, and his critics say that was a tacit endorsement of a shared power structure.
“I respect the judiciary and the legislature and I will work to keep them independent from each other and from presidential power,” Morsi said after taking the oath earlier this month. “We will all go forward together.”
But Mohamed Habib, a former Muslim Brotherhood official, said both powers are trying to show their strength.
“(The generals) have Morsi’s fingers between their teeth, and Morsi has (the generals’) fingers between his,” he said. “Whoever gives in first loses.”