CAIRO — Egypt’s parliament speaker said the chamber would reconvene on Tuesday after the new Islamist president defied the generals by quashing their decision to dissolve the assembly last month.
Responding a day after Mohamed Morsi’s decree, the army on Monday defended its action to dissolve parliament and, in an apparent swipe at the president, said it was confident “all state institutions” would respect the constitution and the law.
Parliament speaker Saad Katatni, in remarks carried by the state news agency, said the lower house would sit from noon (1000 GMT) on Tuesday, in defiance of the army’s order to dismiss parliament a month ago, a move based on a court ruling.
Katatni, like Morsi, hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, the long-time adversary of Mubarak and the other military men who ruled Egypt for six decades until June 30, when power was formally handed over to Morsi by the army council.
“Early confrontation,” wrote Al Akhbar newspaper, summing up Morsi’s decision which could end a brief honeymoon with the military council, led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
Yet earlier in the day, Morsi and Tantawi showed no hint of discord when the president attended a military parade. Seated side-by-side, Morsi and Tantawi turned to each other in a brief jovial exchange, television images showed.
The military council, which had run Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011, sought to trim the president’s authority before the handover on June 30. It had dissolved parliament and taken legislative power for itself.
Morsi’s decision hands those powers back to a parliament packed with his Islamist allies. He also ordered new elections for parliament once a constitution is passed by referendum.
Responding to Morsi’s challenge, the military council said in a statement read out on state television it had dissolved parliament based on ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court, and had always been acting to support “the will of the people”.
It also said it “was confident all institutions of state will respect constitutional decrees”, an apparent jibe at the Brotherhood president, and affirmed “the importance of the sovereignty of law and the constitution” to protect the state.
After a meeting over Morsi’s decree, the supreme court said its decisions were final and binding, and said it would review cases challenging the decree’s constitutionality on Tuesday.
As well as riling the army and judiciary, the move raises tensions between the Brotherhood, the biggest winners so far in Egypt’s political transformation, and liberal and other groups concerned by what they see as an Islamist power grab.
The Egyptian Social Democratic Party, which has a handful of seats in parliament, condemned the president’s recall of the assembly, saying it was a “violation of the judicial power” and resembled the high-handed approach long seen from the army.
About 1,000 people gathered in Cairo’s prosperous Nasser City suburb to protest against Morsi’s decision and call for parliament not to convene. The Brotherhood called on its website for a show of support for Morsi on the streets on Tuesday.
But the Brotherhood played down any dispute.
“We affirm that there is no confrontation with the judiciary and the decision respects the verdict of the constitutional court,” said presidential aide Yasser Ali.
Katatni said parliament would discuss on Tuesday “how to implement the court ruling” that declared the assembly void and a legal committee would be asked to draw up proposals.
In a sign the generals may not challenge Morsi head on, the state news agency reported that guards at parliament had allowed some members into the building on Monday. It had been declared off limits when the army ordered the chamber dissolved.
The military council has less formal room for manoeuvre now that it has transferred presidential powers to Morsi, even if it has removed some powers from that office.
In one of his most high-profile meetings since taking office, Morsi met US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at the presidential palace on Sunday, signalling the new ties Washington is forging with resurgent Islamists in the region.
Burns pledged that the US, which grants the Egyptian armed forces $1.3 billion a year in military aid, would support Egypt’s economy, which has been haemorrhaging cash and is heading for a balance of payments and budget crisis.
Adding to the murky outlook that is unsettling investors, legal wrangling looks set to continue. Following the judges’ dissolution of parliament and scrapping of a constitutional drafting panel appointed by parliament, further challenges in the courts could yet derail a second drafting panel.
In addition to cases with the Supreme Constitutional Court, officials said about 20 suits against Morsi’s decree had been presented to other courts.
One of those was submitted by lawyer and leftist member of parliament Abul Ezz Hariry, who said it would be reviewed by an administrative court on Tuesday.