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Morsy Reinstates Egypt’s Parliament

Military Council head Tantawi (L) and President Morsy

That was fast.

After only one week in office, President Morsy has picked his first fight – he issued a decree to reinstate the dissolved parliament.

Shortly before the run-off election the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled parliament to be unconstitutional based on procedural grounds, and the military council issued a decree to dissolve it.

Morsy, now with the executive power of the presidency, has undone the decree of the council.

Moreover, he threatens the legislative power the military council afforded itself in the interim period between the dissolution of parliament and the writing of the constitution after which new elections will be held.

Morsy promised the return of parliament from his victory speech in Tahrir Square. He used language, however, which left him wiggle room to fulfill this promise simply with new, eventual elections.

When he took his oath of office in front of the constitutional court, however, it seemed he was accepting the court decision and military prerogative to set the path of transition until a new constitution was written.

When he was seen repeated hobnobbing with the generals, it gave the impression a deal, or at least an understanding, had been reached. That is, Morsy made his ‘revolutionary’ speech, but now was getting down to business in cooperation with the military.

He is certainly getting down to business now.

The ruling to dissolve parliament was questionable, but it was issued by the ‘independent’ court. Whether or not it is, of course, is also questionable, but Morsy pledged to uphold the law and respect the judiciary.

On the other hand, many observers see the court ruling and subsequent constitutional declarations by the military as a power grab, or at the least as an effort to balance the power of the president and an Islamist parliament. Yet both president and parliament were elected democratically – though perhaps this is also among the questionable issues of Egypt’s transition.

This statement is not necessarily to cast doubts on the results, only to reflect the common perception that Egyptian’s votes are only an aspect of the power struggles underway in the country.

Morsy’s move comes one day before the High Administrative Court was set to issue a ruling on the legality of parliament’s dissolution. It is unclear if this case will docket as scheduled. The military council is holding an emergency meeting at present.

Two items to cast shades of conspiracy. One, some suspect this is a continuation of play acting between the Brotherhood and military council. A few months ago they railed against the performance of the government and threatened to withdraw confidence. They never did, but used the episode to justify going back on their promise not to field a presidential candidate. Under this theory, the crisis was engineered then, and is engineered now to present the Brotherhood as a revolutionary force deserving of popular and international support. The military, it is posited, is simply being a foil for the emerging power, with which they are fully in cahoots.

Two, it is noteworthy that in the last day or two President Morsy received a letter specially delivered by the undersecretary of state, William Burns. Its contents were not made public, but the timing is suspicious. The released text, incidentally, narrates the parliament before the constitution.

‘It will be critical to see a democratically elected parliament in place, and an inclusive process to draft a new constitution that upholds universal rights.’

According to conspiracy, however, ‘secret’ instructions could either supplement the theory above, or, more deviously, could be telling the Brotherhood the US has your back in a move against the military.

Away from conspiracy, the next moves may be telling. Morsy’s move is a definitive challenge to the military’s authority. If there was a deal, it seems clear he is violating it.

The military’s position is difficult. It will be hard pressed to go against the executive authority of a popularly elected leader. Indeed, it is the right of the executive to implement – or ignore – administrative aspects of the state.

It was assumed, if there was a deal, that the military possessed a number of cards which could be played against Morsy, with which to hold him in check. There is a court case pending, for example, to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization. There may also be challenges to the legality of his campaign. He, like all other candidates, violated rules. He may also – though this is speculated popularly – have received foreign funding.

After all that has transpired, it would be difficult to imagine any of these legal measures unseating a president, but Egypt has had surprise rulings before.

And at the end of the day, a coup d’etat is ever on the table.

It was not imagined Morsy would move against the military so quickly. The expected path was to accommodate and slowly squeeze them from power, as in Turkey, and to a degree, in Latin America.

It seems Morsy will play his cards now, however. Coming days will reveal either his flush or his bluff.

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