Members of Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament convened briefly on Tuesday, a day after the country's highest court warned lawmakers not to. Newly elected President Mohamed Morsi, long tied to the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, had urged parliament to reconvene, while the ruling military council, which dismissed parliament in June after the court declared a third of its members had been elected illegally, insisted that Morsi respect the court's authority. Where is this increasingly tense power struggle headed? Here, four theories:
1. The military could lose the Egyptian people
Up until now, says the Los Angeles Times in an editorial, the military has been seen as a critical bulwark against extremism in the wake of the Islamists' election victories, forcing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood onto "a more pluralist and moderate course." But if the generals take their strong-arming of the nation's elected leaders too far, they'll "overplay their hand." They might "lose popular support and antagonize Egypt's allies, including the United States, which provides the military with $1.3 billion a year in assistance." If the military crosses the line, and is accused of thwarting the transition to democracy, it might lose its meal ticket.
2. Morsi might be humiliated
Egypt's new president is testing the limits of his authority, says Citigroup analyst David Cowan. And if the military plays its cards right, the president might not be pleased with the outcome. He's hoping to force the generals to "respect his authority as president and to secure his own political legitimacy." But as long as the military rulers hold back and let the court do their dirty work, they'll look like they're the ones upholding the rule of law "while emphasizing the impotence of the presidency." That's hardly the result Morsi is hoping for.
3. Egypt's economy could crumble
The high-stakes game of chicken being played between Morsi and the generals is delaying "the key moves needed to stabilize Egypt's economy," says Stefan Wagstyl at the U.K.'s Financial Times. Egyptian stocks plunged by 4.5 percent as tensions flared on Monday, a clear sign that Morsi's "brief honeymoon" with the market is over. Time is running out for Egypt to start negotiating loans from the International Monetary Fund to rescue its crumbling economy. "Egypt needs to pass the hat around very quickly but it cannot do so until the generals and the Islamists settle whose hands are doing the passing."
4. The truth is, no one knows
Egyptians on the street aren't the only ones "disoriented by the rapidity and ambiguity" of this avalanche of political bombshells, says Eric Stranger at The New Republic. "Even the country’s policy makers and political sophisticates are befuddled." Members of the Muslim Brotherhood were as surprised as everyone else when Morsi defied the military ruling council by reconvening parliament. And the truth is, nobody knows what comes next, because Egypt is in uncharted territory. "This is all new," Monticule El-Faizy of the World Policy Institute tells CNN. "Everybody's finding their way."