The dispute threatened to complicate a planned visit to Cairo on Saturday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Speaking in Vietnam on Tuesday, Clinton urged “intensive dialogue” between Morsi and the military to avoid derailing progress in Egypt’s transition to democracy.
Morsi’s move to convene parliament also appeared to widen political fault lines. It triggered sharp rebukes from judges and liberal politicians, including some members of parliament, who accused him of overreaching.
The decision to call the dissolved parliament back into session marked a bold gamble by Morsi, who was propelled into office by the Muslim Brotherhood’s prodigious political machine. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party held nearly half of the seats in parliament.
But Tuesday’s developments also highlighted the pitfalls the president is likely to face as he asserts himself as a statesman with limited powers and strained relations with the secular chiefs of the armed forces and members of a judiciary who were appointed by his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat who led Egypt for three decades.
Sharp warnings from the military and the courts had raised the prospect that a reconvening of parliament could prompt a violent confrontation between lawmakers and security forces deployed outside the building. But members of parliament arrived more than an hour before the scheduled time and faced no resistance as they walked into the building.
The only item on the agenda was a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court last month that found that one-third of legislators had been elected unlawfully. The decision prompted the then-ruling military generals to disband parliament and call for new elections.
Parliament Speaker Mohamed Saad Katatny, of the Freedom and Justice Party, said he would refer the court ruling to an appeals panel for review. He did not schedule additional sessions, nor did he suggest that parliament would seek to legislate while the dispute remains unsettled.
Momen Zarour, a lawmaker from the Freedom and Justice Party, said the brief meeting served notice that Egypt’s new political leaders will not be intimidated.
“We had to hold a session today, and we will hold more sessions next week,” said Zarour after rising from midday prayers with several dozen protesters on the sidewalk outside the gates of the building. “This is the first democratically elected parliament that Egypt has had in its history.”