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Egyptian Parliament Meets Despite High Court Prohibition
July 11, 2012

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Tensions are running high at the highest levels of government in Egypt, as MPs got back to work despite a high court ruling affirming the dissolution of Parliament.

Speaker Saad al-Katatni opened the session at the direction of newly inaugurated President Mohammed Morsi, whose decree the Supreme Constitutional Court invalidated in reaffirming its original decision, issued several weeks ago, voiding the election of up to one-third of MPs because of illegal election practices. Despite the generals' original order dissolving Parliament, troops made no attempts to deny MPs entry to the parliamentary building. Discussed under urgency was a proposal to amend a legal challenge to clarify that the lawfully elected members of Parliament could indeed continue to sit, even if the high court reaffirmed its earlier decision.

Not all MPs returned, however. Many members of non-Islamist parties boycotted the parliamentary session, in order to show their discontent with the political actions of the Muslim Brotherhood, which claims far and away the highest number of MPs.

Crowds gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, speaking out against the generals and the high court. Some protesters questioned the validity of the court's ruling.

The latest announcement from the court leaves the elected government in a high degree of limbo. Egypt doesn't have a new constitution because of ideological disputes that members of the original assembly couldn't overcome despite their common desire to craft a new framework of government. Morsi isn't sure exactly how far his powers or influence extend, after the ruling generals eliminated much of the president's power short of the runoff election. In his decree calling for Parliament to reconvene, Morsi floated the idea of early elections.

Technically, the high court's latest ruling leaves the ruling generals in charge of the legislative arm of the government. The high court has yet to rule on a legal challenge to another of the generals' decrees, that they would name the members of the new constitution-writing panel. No matter who ends up writing the document, its contents still have to be approved in a national referendum.

Among those urging a continuation of peaceful dialogue were Mohamed El-Baradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who elected not to run for president earlier this year, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will meet with Morsi on a state visit on July 14. Among the topics for discussion at that meeting are expected to be the $1.3 billion in aid that the U.S. gives to Egypt annually.



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