Cairo (AsiaNews) - Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's newly elected president, has challenged the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). In a presidential decree signed last night, he overturned SCAF's decision to dissolve parliament in response to a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court.
At present, the latter has not yet reacted to the presidential move, but SCAF is set to meet in an emergency meeting. The Islamist-controlled parliament is also expected to meet tomorrow, local sources reported. Its proceedings will be legal until fresh parliamentary elections are held in September.
In Egyptian media, the legality of the president's move is hotly debated. Many now fear an open showdown between the military and supporters of the Mubarak regime against the Muslim Brotherhood, winner of the elections to the dissolved parliament.
In public at least, Morsi and SCAF chief Marshal Tantawi appeared at ease with each other. Both attended military manoeuvres, talking and laughing.
For various analysts, the president's decree is an open challenge to the SCAF, and might be the beginning of a power struggle between the two centres of power.
"It all depends on whether the SCAF was acting in its legislative capacity-which the military council assumed upon the dissolution of parliament last month-or whether it was relying on its executive power in its capacity as acting president," Aly Shalakany, partner at the Cairo-based Shalakany Law Firm, told Ahram Online.
If the SCAF dissolved parliament's lower house in its executive capacity, Morsi would have the constitutional powers to reverse previous executive decisions, including the SCAF's resolution dissolving parliament. However, the transitional constitution adopted in March 2011 is not clear whether the president has full powers.
"According to Article 25 of the Constitutional Declaration, the president is not granted sub-point 2 of Article 56, which includes 'approving or implementing public policy,' a very broad term," Shalakany explained. "It could be argued that Morsi's revocation of the SCAF decree affects public policy-an action he cannot do."
In mid-June, the Supreme Constitutional Court overturned the outcome of a third of seats in the People's Assembly of Egypt (lower house) elected in January (dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists) because certain parts of the election law were unconstitutional.
This gave SCAF, which has ruled Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, an opportunity to dissolve the People's Assembly and seized legislative power. Islamist groups, especially the Brotherhood, have cried foul, accusing the military of carrying out a coup.
Following his election, Morsi could not take his oath of office before parliament but had to do it in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which had caused the latter's dissolution. As part of the ceremony, the new president had to swear to uphold the decisions of the courts, including the highest court of the land.