Thursday, July 12, 2012

Morsi's decree to reconvene Egypt's parliament runs aground in a juridical labyrinth

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi will respect a court ruling overturning his decree for the dissolved parliament to convene, his office said Wednesday. The statement appears to stave off a showdown with the military leaders of teh SCAF and to mollify the judiciary.
"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. "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, overstepping a decision by the military who disbanded the parliament after the Supreme Constitional Court last month ruled that one third of it  had been elected in an unconstitutional way. The military then  issued an addition to the constitution, themselves assuming the powers of the parliament. Morsi's decree to reconvene the parliament, in which the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Freedom Party is the most powerful, was seen as an opening shot in a power struggle with the military. 
President Morsi meets the head of the council of judges, one of the juridical organisations that criticized his decree to reconvene the parliament.  (AFP)

It was applauded by supporters who believed the court's decision to disband parliament was political. But opponents accused him of overstepping his authority. An there were many reactions from legal experts who questioned it legality.
The parliament convened on Tuesday for less than a quarter of an hour and decided to refer the question whether the decision by the military to disband it was justified to an Administrative Court of appeal. This was seen as an attempt by Morsi and his supporters to back away from a direct confrontation with the military. But the story got a different twist after the Supreme Constitutional Court also convened on Tuesday, and ruled on Tuesday evening that the military had taken the right decision when they dissolved the parliament, thereby de facto overruling Morsi's decree. 

The result of all these movements is that not much is moving in Egypt after all. Morsi apparently did not want to go too far in testing the the willingness of the SCAF to accept the parliament which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, and compromised. The parliaments future is suspended from a thin thread as the decision whether it will survive depends on the viewpoint of an administrative court, which is unlikely to come to a different decision than the Supreme Constitutional Court when it comes down to the question whether it was rightfully disbanded. Incidentally, the same goes for the the constitutional assembly that was formed by parliament and that is to write a new constitution. The same administrative court is going to decide on its future as well, after it decided on Wednesday to look into complaints on the panel's legality next Tuesday rather than in September as had been scheduled, the official MENA news agency reported. In the the administrative court decides that is illegal as well, and had to be disbanded, the military will appoint a  news assembly, as it gave itself that right in the same addition to the constitution issued just before the second round of the presidential elections whereby it assumed the powers of the parliament. 
In this way the question who rules Egypt is decided by judges against the background of a constitutional labyrinth, where the powers of the president or the military and even the judges themselves are questionable, since they are based in part on rules that have been added unilaterally by the military and have not been ratified in any democratic way. Many legal experts in Egypt, for instance, questioned whether the High Constitutional Court had even the right to overrule a presidential decree. But the general outcome of this shadowy fight is clear enough: Morsi will not be able to have it his own way. There are not many steps he can take without the consent of the SCAF. 

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