Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's newly elected president, reopened a parliament that the military rulers had dissolved. But the country's top judges insist their ruling that led to the military action remains valid.
"It is a political dispute that has been going on for some time .... It started when the Muslim Brotherhood decided to present a candidate for the presidency, this was a move against the will and wish of the SCAF .... And what we are seeing now is just one chapter of this long fight. the legal issue is used as a facade for this political fight."
- Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University
And now there is a political, legal and social storm in the wake of the president's action. The country is divided over the legality of and the reasons for Morsi's decision.
His supporters insist the president is returning legislative power to the people while opponents maintain he is undermining the rule of law.
Last month Egypt's constitutional court ruled that part of the electoral process was unconstitutional, finding that one-third of seats supposed to be filled by independents had in fact been occupied by party representatives, and recommended that the whole of parliament be dissolved.
As executive authority at that stage, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), then decreed the closure of parliament and barred MPs from even entering the premises.
By reversing that decree the newly elected president is essentially beginning to define the degree of executive authority he believes has been ceded by SCAF. And he is also denying SCAF's insistence that it will continue to hold full legislative power until a new constitution is drawn up and a parliament is re-elected.
"It's not an open battle rather a competition over authority and over power .... We have a military behind the scenes and the whole battle is managed by political and the legal institutions within the state .... This kind of stand-off will continue for a long [time]. "
- Sameh Fawzy, a political analyst
In immediately holding a formal session, the parliament is signalling its backing for the president.
But by adjourning within minutes and referring the matter of its legal status to the courts, the parliament has also signalled its willingness to uphold the rule of law.
So, is it a constitutional crisis, a political showdown or both?
Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, discusses with guests: Hisham Kassem, a veteran journalist and publisher; Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo Univeristy and an author of several books on Egyptian foreign policy; and Sameh Fawzy, a political analyst.
"I believe SCAF are much happier with Mohamed Morsi from the Brotherhood because had it been Ahmed Shafik who is one of the ranks, he was going to be much more capable of dealing with them and controlling them. What we have is a case that went in front of the constitutional court and the electoral law was ruled unconstitutional. All SCAF did really was ... to have a decree ... dissolving parliament. And then Mohamed Morsi basically tried to retaliate and get parliament back in session and use his power back possibly making the biggest political mistake in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood .... They thought that this would turn into a conflict with SCAF but SCAF completely avoided any collision with them .... And that the people would rally behind them against military rule but it worked out in a completely different way and now the major fall-out is with the judiciary."
Hisham Kassem, a veteran journalist and publisher
EGYPT'S POWER STRUGGLE
- Egypt's parliament reconvenes in defiance of a military order
- President Morsi issued a decree ordering the parliament to reconvene
- Court says the military council ruling to dissolve parliament is binding
- Court decision follows president's call for the parliament to reconvene
- SCAF dissolved the parliament before the presidential election
- Morsi says the military council had no right to dissolve the parliament
- Egypt's highest court has called a meeting to discuss Morsi's decision
- Supreme constitutional court says it is not part of political dispute
- Decision could put Morsi on collision course with the military
- Morsi became president after a run-off vote in June