CAIRO – Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament convened Tuesday in defiance of a ruling by the country's highest court and swiftly voted to seek a legal opinion on the decision that invalidated the chamber over apparent election irregularities.
The lawmakers' session was brief -- it lasted just five minutes -- but it pushed Egypt deeper into a potential power struggle between new President Mohammed Morsi and the powerful military, which has vowed to uphold the judicial ruling that led to parliament being dissolved.
The crisis atmosphere has grown steadily since Morsi issued an order Sunday to reconvene the 508-seat legislature. His executive order said it was revoking the military's June 15 order to disband the chamber based on the previous ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court.
The court said a third of the chamber's members were elected illegally by allowing candidates from political parties to contest seats set aside for independent candidates.
Parliament Speaker Saad El-Katatni told lawmakers that the legislature met to find ways to implement the court ruling rather than debate it out of respect for the principles of "the supremacy of the law and separation of authorities."
But he put forward a plan to seek what amounts to a "second opinion" from an appeals court on the ruling. It was not immediately clear, however, whether the appeals court would accept the legislature's request.
Both Morsi and el-Katatni are longtime members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist group that has long been at odds with successive Egyptian governments.
In its only public comment on the dispute, the military Monday delivered a thinly veiled warning to Morsi, saying the armed forces sides with the "constitution, legitimacy and law" -- language that means the powerful military will stand by and watch a ruling by the country's highest court ignored or breached.
The military handed over power to Morsi on June 30 after ruling Egypt for 16 months since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
In the run-up to the handover, the military declared itself the country's legislative authority in the absence of a parliament and gave itself control over the drafting of a new constitution and the national budget. The generals also stripped Morsi of significant powers.