Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will respect a court ruling overturning his decree for the dissolved Islamist-dominated parliament to convene, his office said amid a power struggle with the military. The statement issued on Wednesday appears aimed at mollifying an infuriated judiciary, which has been placed at the forefront of the complex struggle between powerful generals adjusting to their new Islamist president.
“If yesterday’s constitutional court ruling prevents parliament from fulfilling its responsibilities, we will respect that because we are a state of the law,” the statement said, a day after the court froze Morsi’s decree.
“There will be consultations with [political] forces and institutions and the supreme council for legal authorities to pave a suitable way out of this,” the statement added.
Last week, Morsi ordered parliament to convene, in defiance of a military decision, to disband the house in line with a court ruling last month before the generals handed power to the president.
Morsi’s decree was applauded by supporters who believed the court’s decision to disband parliament was political, but it set off a firestorm of criticism from opponents who accused him of overstepping his authority.
According to the country’s interim constitution, drafted by the military generals who took charge after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow early last year, the military assumed the dissolved parliament’s powers.
Morsi’s decision was seen as an opening shot in a power struggle between Egypt’s first civilian leader and the Mubarak-appointed generals, who wanted to retain broad powers even after they transferred control on June 30.
On Sunday, Morsi had ordered parliament back and invited it to convene. Taking its cue from the president, the People’s Assembly met on Tuesday.
“We are gathered today to review the court rulings, the ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court,” People’s Assembly Speaker Saad al-Katatni said.
“I want to stress, we are not contradicting the ruling, but looking at a mechanism for the implementation of the ruling of the respected court. There is no other agenda today,” he added.
According to Morsi’s decree, new parliamentary elections are to be held after a constituent assembly picked by the legislature finishes a constitution.
However, the assembly’s fate is in doubt, with the administrative court deciding on Wednesday to look into complaints on the panel’s legality on Tuesday, rather than in September as had been scheduled, the official MENA news agency reported.
Should the court declare the parliament appointed assembly illegal, the military will appoint a new one, as stipulated in its interim constitution.
The origins of the battle for parliament lay in the constitutional declaration issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which ruled Egypt during its transition after Mubarak was ousted last year.
The declaration, which acts as a temporary constitution until a new one is drafted, granted the military sweeping powers, including legislative control, and rendering the presidential post little more than symbolic.
The SCAF consists of generals appointed by Mubarak, as was the head of the constitutional court that annulled parliament because it found certain articles of the law governing its election invalid.