Egypt’s president on Sunday ordered the return of the dissolved Islamist-led Parliament until a new one could be elected, challenging a decision by generals who had dismissed the assembly based on a court ruling.
“President Mohamed Morsi ordered the reconvening of sessions of the elected Parliament,” according to a presidential statement read by Yasser Ali, an aide to Mr. Morsi. A parliamentary election will be held within 60 days after a new constitution is approved by the nation, Mr. Ali said.
The Supreme Constitutional Court ordered the lower house of Parliament dissolved last month after finding fault with the election process. The generals in the military council, which ruled Egypt until it handed power over to Mr. Morsi on June 30, made the decision and gave themselves legislative powers.
It was unclear on Sunday how the military council would react to Mr. Morsi’s decree. The state news agency MENA said the military council held an emergency session on Sunday to discuss the decision. A member of the council said the generals had not been warned about presidential decree.
In any case, the announcement was seen as a significant step by a leader whose authority was cast into question by the generals’ power grab in the days before the election, and whose political base, the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, has long been at odds with the military.
Meetings of a body to draw up a new constitution are still in their early stages, delayed by disputes over who should write the new document.
Analysts said they had not expected an easy relationship between the army and the Islamist president, but believed Mr. Morsi would tread cautiously to avoid a confrontation.
“Everyone was expecting this to happen but not now, unless this decision was taken in agreement with the army council, but I doubt this,” a political analyst, Mohamed Khalil, said of Sunday’s decree.
“This means he is taking legislative power from the army council and returning it to Parliament. So maybe in this period he needs certain laws to empower the government or to implement the 100-day plan” for his first days in office, Mr. Khalil said.
The background to the decision was still not clear but the call for early elections could placate demands for a new parliament, he said.
Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center said the decision could be a compromise arrangement for the short term, so the military gets part of what it wanted — a new Parliament in coming months _ and Islamists can avoid a situation where the military dominates a legislative authority.”
Earlier on Sunday, President Obama invited Mr. Morsi to visit the United States in September, an Egyptian official said, reflecting the ties Washington is cultivating with the region’s Islamists.
The United States, long wary of Islamists and an ally of the ousted President Hosni Mubarak, shifted policy last year to open formal contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mr. Morsi’s success at the polls mirrors the rising influence of Islamists in countries across the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of revolts and protests against autocratic rulers who have led the region for decades.
“President Obama extended an invitation to President Morsi to visit the United States when he attends the U.N. General Assembly in September,” an Egyptian aide, Yasser Ali, said after Mr. Morsi met Deputy Secretary of State William Burns in Cairo.
Mr. Burns, who did not mention the invitation at a news conference held earlier, pledged American support for Egypt’s battered economy and said he welcomed Mr. Morsi’s promise to uphold international treaties, which include a peace agreement with Israel.
“We have taken careful note and appreciated President Morsi’s public statements about a commitment to international obligations, and we certainly attach great importance to Egypt’s continuing role as a force for peace,” Mr. Burns said.