Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament opened a new front in the country's leadership showdowns Tuesday by meeting in defiance of orders that disbanded the chamber and brought President Mohammed Morsi in conflict with both the military and the highest court.
The session was brief - lasting just five minutes - and suggested that lawmakers sought more of a symbolic stance rather than a full-scale backlash against rulings that invalidated the chamber over apparent irregularities in Egypt's first elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak 17 months ago.
But it further nudged Egypt deeper into a potential power struggle between Morsi and military chiefs, who have vowed to uphold the judicial ruling that led to parliament being dissolved last month.
For the moment, all sides appear to be moving with some caution in acknowledgment of Egypt's volatile backdrop: The military with the power to clampdown on dissent but without widespread support on the streets where Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood is strong.
Security forces made no attempt to block lawmakers as they arrived at the parliament building in central Cairo.
In the background, meanwhile, a special panel is working on Egypt's post-Mubarak constitution and an all-out battle between the rising Brotherhood and the country's old guard establishment could send the entire process into a tailspin.
The crisis atmosphere has grown steadily since Morsi issued an order Sunday to reconvene the 508-seat legislature. His executive order said it was revoking the military's June 15 order to disband the chamber.