Patience in the ranks
When Mursi decided to reinstate the parliament which SCAF dissolved, the generals remained calm. Was a deal struck beforehand, asks Amirah Ibrahim
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El-Ganzouri, Mursi, Tantawi, Anan and El-Tayeb attend a graduation ceremony of military cadets on Monday
Against the backdrop of President Mohamed Mursi's call to reinstate the dissolved parliament, and the probability that the decision would evoke a clash between the president, the Muslim Brotherhood and the 19 generals who have been in control of the country since last year, a showdown did not happen.
On Sunday, Mursi issued a presidential decree cancelling an earlier decree issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to dissolve parliament based on a judicial ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court.
On Monday, SCAF replied with a measured response disappointing those who bet that the army would confront the president. SCAF defended its stance, saying it had only acted on behalf of the court ruling.
"SCAF did not order the parliament to be dissolved. It only acted as an administrative committee to put the court ruling into effect," explained a military source who preferred to remain anonymous. "SCAF's Decree 350 filled a legislative vacuum in the country. A new president was about to be elected and SCAF wanted to ensure a legal president.
"This is not our battle. It is the judiciary's, and those after a state of law must be respected not insulted," the source added.
"We are confident that all state institutions will be respected as what was issued in all constitutional declarations," SCAF said in a statement, also dismissing rumours about a deal over power sharing.
Mursi's decision on Sunday stipulated cancelling SCAF Decree 350 which considered the parliament dissolved starting from 15 June.
"There is nothing wrong as long as the president used his executive powers to cancel a decree by the former executive power," commented a military source. "The first item [Decree 350] comes within the president's power. But the items which followed are not. It called the dissolved parliament to take back its validities as a legal council which is not correct as per the Supreme Constitutional Court's ruling."
Dominated by the Islamists, the parliament launched its first session on 23 January. After four months, it was halted by a court ruling, just as the nation was busy electing its first president after the revolution. SCAF assumed legislative power, taking over from parliament its two main concerns: legislation and budget monitoring.
Mursi's decree supposedly should have taken legislation and budget monitoring from SCAF and given it back to parliament.
SCAF generals did not wait for long. On Tuesday, the Supreme Constitutional Court halted Mursi's decision and affirmed its ruling to dissolve parliament and considered any motion to revive it invalid. Last month, the same court said parliamentary elections were unconstitutional, saying parliament was invalid starting from day one.
The day after Mursi's shock move, the president joined SCAF generals at two military academy graduation ceremonies. Last week, Mursi attended the graduation ceremonies of the Navy Academy and Air Defence Academy, both in Alexandria. He appeared chatting and trying to close ranks with young officers. Head of SCAF Hussein Tantawi was there.
In Cairo on Monday, Tantawi and other generals joined the president 24 hours after his controversial decree at two other graduation ceremonies. Mursi showed no obvious signs of strain as he moved from one military academy to another, accompanied by Tantawi, SCAF members and top state officials. On Tuesday, however, as Mursi and Tantawi were attending another graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy, the Supreme Constitutional Court issued its ruling that put a halt to Mursi's decision.
Yet the confrontation is far from over. There is speculation over similar intentions by the president to cancel SCAF's recent constitutional declaration to write the new constitution. There was even talk about Mursi going as far as dissolving SCAF.