(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Egypt’s high court has dissolved the first democratically elected Parliament and declared that former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmad Shafiq, can remain in the race for president:
The rulings by the Supreme Constitutional Court, whose judges are Mubarak appointees, escalated the power struggle between the Brotherhood and the military, which stepped in to rule after Mubarak’s fall. The decisions tip the contest dramatically in favor of the ruling generals, robbing the Brotherhood of its power base in parliament and boosting Ahmad Shafiq, the former Mubarak prime minister who many see as the military’s favorite in the presidential contest against the Brotherhood’s candidate.
Senior Muslim Brotherhood leader and lawmaker Mohammed el-Beltagy said the rulings amounted to a “full-fledged coup.”
“This is the Egypt that Shafiq and the military council want and which I will not accept no matter how dear the price is,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
The Brotherhood and liberal and leftist activists who backed last year’s revolution against Mubarak accused the military of using the constitutional court as a proxy to preserve the hold of the ousted leader’s authoritarian regime and the generals over the country. Many of them were vowing new street protests.
Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said in a Twitter post:
Egypt just witnessed the smoothest military coup. We’d be outraged if we weren’t so exhausted
— hossam bahgat (@hossambahgat) June 14, 2012
According to the BBC, last year’s Parliamentary elections were “against the rules”
The court had been considering the validity of last year’s parliamentary election, because some of the seats were contested on a proportional list system, with others on the first-past-the-post system.
It decided that the election law had allowed parties to compete for seats reserved for independent candidates.
The head of the supreme court Farouk Soltan told Reuters: “The ruling regarding parliament includes the dissolution of the lower house of parliament in its entirety because the law upon which the elections were held is contrary to rules of the constitution.”
Many of the seats ruled unconstitutional were won by the Muslim Brotherhood.
In his New York Times article, David D. Kirkpatrick noted the consequences of the new president taking power with no Parliament to hold him on check:
The ruling means that whoever emerges as the winner of the runoff will take power without the check of a sitting Parliament and could even exercise some influence over the election of a future Parliament. It vastly compounds the stakes in the presidential race, raises questions about the governing military council’s commitment to democracy, and makes uncertain the future of a constitutional assembly recently formed by Parliament as well.
The decision, which dissolves the first freely elected Parliament in Egypt in decades, supercharges a building conflict between the court, which is increasingly presenting itself as a check on Islamists’ power, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The ruling, by the highest judicial authority in Egypt, cannot be appealed and it was not clear how the military council, which has been governing Egypt since Mr. Mubarak’s downfall in February 2011, would respond. But in anticipation that the court’s ruling could anger citizens, the military authorities reimposed martial law on Wednesday.
The ruling is a result of the Islamic dominated Parliament passing a law that barred prominent figures from the old regime from running for office. Critics of the law said that it targeted Shafiq and the court, in its ruling, said that the law lacked “objective grounds”, was discriminatory and violated “the principle of equality.”
Since the Mubarak’s fall, Egypt’s military has promised to hand power to an elected president by the start of July, but with no constitution and now the prospect of no parliament to write one, the new president is unlikely have his powers defined by the time he comes into office. And that has all the earmarks of a disaster for the Arab Spring and democracy in Egypt.