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Egyptian Parliament Determined to Reconvene
July 10, 2012

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Egypt's Parliament plans to reconvene, despite a dispute over whether it can.

The MPs, elected in January, were told that their services were no longer needed after the Supreme Constitutional Court decreed that a full one-third of MPs were elected in contravention of election laws, which required those seats to be held by lawmakers independent of political party affiliation. Most of those one-third were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is far and away the party with the most representation in Parliament.

After the high court ruling, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the generals who have run the country since the abdication of former President Hosni Mubarak, ordered Parliament dissolved in its entirety and called for new elections at some future time.

Just recently, newly inaugurated President Mohammed Morsi ordered Parliament, all of it, to reconvene. The ruling generals called an emergency meeting but had no official response to Morsi's decree, which was issued despite the absence of a clear indication of just what powers the president had. The ruling generals voided the country's constitution in the wake of the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising against Mubarak, and no government framework has emerged as a successor. Just before the runoff election that Morsi won, the generals removed most of the president's powers and declared themselves the legislative authority, again.

Meanwhile, the high court has reaffirmed its earlier ruling, insisting that it is the top legal authority in the land. The court has still to consider several other legal challenges, including appeals of the generals' decision to appoint their own constitution-writing assembly and of Morsi's decree recalling Parliament.

It is not clear what role the army will play in all of this. The army has not interfered with large protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square and elsewhere. After the order dissolving Parliament, soldiers ringed the Parliament building, refusing to allow MPs access. That prohibition has been lifted, and some elected officials have already entered the parliamentary chambers. Parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni called on all MPs to arrive for a legislative session, and many said that they would attend any future sessions as long as they were able.

Despite the seeming conflict, Morsi and the head of SCAF, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, appeared in public together, at a military cadet graduation ceremony.

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