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With 15-Minute Session, Egypt's Parliament Defies High Court

The power struggle between the military leaders who have been running Egypt since the spring 2011 toppling of President Hosni Mubarak and newly elected lawmakers escalated further today.

Members of parliament's lower house met in defiance of an order from the nation's highest court to disband.

Merrit Kennedy reports for our Newscast Desk that, in response to a call from also newly elected President Mohammed Morsi, about two-thirds of the lawmakers entered parliament. In a 15-minute session, she says, they "voted to send the constitutional court's decision to a court of appeals, and then adjourned indefinitely."

The New York Times calls this "a raw contest between Egypt's competing centers of power." As it says:

"The power struggle reflected dueling claims to Egypt's emerging politics, with each side trying to frame the debate as a contest for ideals, legitimacy and democracy. The generals, backed by the court, argue that the new president must respect legal precedents and the institutions of the state. The new president, in turn, is calling on the generals to respect a popular will that was expressed through free elections."

As the BBC notes, "it is unclear how events will unfold as the situation — with the new president elected without a new constitution being drafted, and the parliament theoretically dissolved — is unprecedented, analysts say." With that story, the BBC also has a quick look at "Egypt: Who holds the power?" The players:

-- The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has "complete legislative power until a new parliament is elected and gives it a strong voice in the constitution-writing process."

-- The president, who "has authority over administrative and domestic affairs."

-- Parliament, which has effectively been suspended.

-- The Supreme Constitutional Court, which "decides cases in which the constitutionality of a law or regulation is challenged. Its current president ... was appointed by Hosni Mubarak. His successor was selected by the court."

On June 14, in what some Egyptians have said was a "smooth military coup," the court ruled that last year's parliamentary vote was unconstitutional because some candidates who were elected had run with the support of political parties for seats that were supposed to be reserved for independent candidates.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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