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Morsi-military standoff: How big a blow to Egypt? (+video)

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Dr. Brown says some uncertainty early in the transition was politically healthy because it reassured Egyptians that no one had a monopoly on power. But "at this point, it’s gone beyond healthy uncertainty to complete confusion that is corroding some of the basic institutions of Egyptian legal and political life,” he says. 

The parliament, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, met today despite a warning yesterday from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which ruled Egypt after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak until the end of last month, when Morsi took power.

In its warning, the SCAF emphasized the importance of the law and the constitution, and said it was confident that “all state institutions will respect constitutional decrees.” The Supreme Constitutional Court also issued its own notice, saying that its decisions were final, cannot be appealed, and are “binding on all authorities of the state.”

Many in Egypt saw the court’s ruling on the parliament as coming from a politicized court whose members were appointed by Mr. Mubarak. The swiftness with which the court rendered the verdict, and its insistence that the entire assembly be dissolved rather than only the one-third of the members who won independent seats, heightened suspicion.

Shortly after the verdict, the military council declared the parliament dissolved, then amended Egypt’s interim constitution to claim legislative power for itself until a new parliament was elected. It also limited the powers of the incoming president and gave itself veto power in the drafting of a new constitution.

Morsi’s executive order did not contradict the court’s ruling, but did rescind the military’s decree that parliament be dissolved in order to implement it. His office insists he respects the rule of law, and is simply disagreeing with the military’s execution of the ruling. In an acknowledgment of the court's ruling, his executive order called for new elections 60 days after a new constitution is written. But it is unclear whether any actions taken by the reassembled parliament would survive challenges in court.

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