A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Egypt's Parliament Meets for 12 Minutes, Refers Fate to Courts. Wait—What Just Happened?

The showdown at the Cairo Corral seemed imminent, the Earps and Clantons facing each other down, and then — everybody went home. Egypt's dissolved Parliament, recalled by President Morsi in what seemed a challenge to both the military and the Supreme Constitutional Court, assembled, voted to refer its fate to the Appeals Court (technically seeking advice on how to implemnet the SCC dissoluton), and dissolved 12 minutes later pending the appeal. Two days of sound and fury, of sturm und drang, ended with — what, exactly?

A prolcedural point made, to be sure: Parliament chose to appeal its own fate, but did noy seek to legislate. Some suspect a more abstruse point may be in play: SCAF having handed over executive power to Morsi in the interim, Morsi may argue that constitutionally the legislative authority now devolves to him, not to SCAF. But that bsttle is one for the courts, not the streets. That seems implicit here:
Speaker Saad al-Katatny chaired a general meeting that discussed means of enforcing the verdict. He said the decision by President Mohamed Morsy to reinstate the assembly did not defy the court's ruling, but rather reversed the consequent decision by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to disband the assembly.
"In all of its activities, the state is bound by laws. The People's Assembly is fully cognizant of its competences, and respects the judiciary," Katatny stressed.
He added that he had consulted the legislative committee to enforce the verdict and its relevant measures, but noted that Article 40 of the Constitutional Declaration, which has governed the country since March 2011, stipulates that the Court of Cassation has jurisdiction over the validity of parliament memberships.
 So who blinked, and who won? I think that Morsi and the Parliament may have made a procedural point for the legal maneuvering ahead, but hardly the daring reclamation of Presidential authority this was being portrayed as over the past couple of days.

Was this the intended scenario all along, or an 11th hour dialing back of the crisis? Morsi's move alarmed many liberals and others who feared the Muslim Brotherhood was making a ploy to get back the Parliament it dominates and thus control the political arena as a whole; the fact that the MB's Shura Council held a meeting shortly before Morsi's move added to fears that, despite his "resignation" from the movement, it is not Morsi but the MB leadership calling the shots. The Brotherhood has frequently overplayed its hand in the past year and a half, and may have done so again.

But that will be hard to judge until it's clear what Morsi intended from the beginning. Was the plan all along to go to the brink and then back off, as seems to have happened? Was the plan all along to make a recondite constitutional point, and then let the courts figure it out? (Meanwhile, pending cases relating to Parliament were postponed to July 17.)

An initial impression is that the MB hurt itself here: it seemed to be flouting the rule of law (even if the SCC is a Mubarak-packed body) and alienating some of its own allies. In the end, it may have backed away from a confrontation it was going to lose. Or perhaps this compromise (if that's what it is) was its goal all along.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

The MB is proving that it is truly Egyptian. It must have been pharaonic bureaucrats who raised ambiguity to such a level that it became ghamid in the familiar Egyptian sense.