Independent lawmaker Mostafa Bakri was among the lawmakers who boycotted the session. He issued a statement later resigning from his post and calling the Muslim Brotherhood’s move “political thuggery.”
The head of a prominent association of Egyptian judges also lashed out at Morsi. At a fiery news conference Monday, he gave the president 36 hours to pull back his decree to reinstate the Islamist-led parliament or face the prospect of a judicial strike.
But in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the center of last year’s revolution, Brotherhood supporters held a jubilant rally after sundown to celebrate the reconvening of parliament.
“Down, down with military rule,” said Mona Dawoud, a Brotherhood supporter draped in black from head to toe. “This decree is the first step to breaking military rule.”
Although Morsi’s decree and the parliamentary session appeared to delight his followers, it also threatened to tarnish the image of a unifying president that the conservative Islamist had sought to project since assuming office. Experts and politicians said the sides are likely to cool off until further court rulings on the dispute are issued.
“A lot of this depends on where people perceive power to be,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, an Egypt expert at the Century Foundation in New York. “You could see this cutting a number of ways.”
During a short news conference in Vietnam, Clinton called for “a concerted effort on the part of all to deal with the problems that are understandable but have to be resolved.”
Clinton expects to meet with Morsi as part of an attempt to reset relations between Washington and Cairo after the turbulent 17-month military rule during which the longtime alliance became badly frayed. The United States hopes to help jump-start Egypt’s economy by beginning to release unspent aid earmarked for the country and helping it secure loans it will need to offset the hemorrhaging of its foreign reserves.
Hussein Gohar, a founding member of the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said many Egyptians were taken off guard by how quickly Morsi chose to pick a fight. Gohar said that by holding only a brief session, the Brotherhood saved face with its supporters and averted a nastier confrontation with the courts and the generals. But one thing is clear, he added: This is the beginning of a protracted fight.
“Everyone is asking who has the real power in their hands, the Muslim Brotherhood or SCAF,” he said, referring to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. “For now, it’s going to be guesswork. Your guess is as good as mine.”
Stephanie McCrummen in Hanoi contributed to this report.