In a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies, Egypt's 18-judge Supreme Court has ruled that the post-Mubarak parliamentary elections invalid and that the new Islamist-dominated parliament be dissolved.
The sweeping ruling by many judges who were appointed by Mubarak drew immediate criticism from the Muslim Brotherhood, who compared the high court's ruling to a coup d'etat.
The decision by the Supreme Constitutional Court effectively erased the tenuous progress from Egypt's troubled transition in the past year, leaving the country with no parliament and concentrating power even more firmly in the hands of the generals who took over from Mubarak.Earlier this week, the military appointed government gave police and military the authority to arrest civilians for poorly-defined and vague crimes such as disrupting traffic or the economy. This has led to speculation that the measures were designed specifically for cracking down on protests like the Tahrir Square demonstrations that ultimately toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak and that military commanders plan on retaining power after the June 17th runoff presidential election between Muslim Brotherhood-backed Muhammed Mursi and Hosni Mubarak's former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.
Several hundred people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square after the rulings to denounce the action and rally against former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, the presidential candidate seen by critics as a symbol of Mubarak's autocratic rule. But with no calls by the Brotherhood or other groups for massive demonstrations, the crowd did not grow.
Activists who engineered Egypt's uprising have long suspected that the generals would try to cling to power, explaining that after 60 years as the nation's single most dominant institution, the military would be reluctant to surrender its authority or leave its economic empire to civilian scrutiny.
Shafiq's rival in the Saturday-Sunday runoff, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, said he was unhappy about the rulings but accepted them.
In last year's parliamentary elections -- Egypt's first democratic ones in generations -- the Brotherhood became the biggest party in the legislature, with nearly half the seats, alongside more conservative Islamists who took another 20 percent. It is hoping to win the presidency as well.
The rulings, however, take away the Brotherhood's power base in parliament and boost Shafiq at a time when the Islamists are at sharp odds with a wide array of major forces, including the military, the judiciary and pro-democracy groups behind the uprising.
The law governing the parliamentary elections was ruled unconstitutional by a lower court because it breached the principle of equality when it allowed party members to contest a third of the seats set aside for independents. The remaining two-thirds were contested by party slates.
Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court also struck down a law passed by the post-Mubarak Islamist dominated parliament that barred former officials with the Mubarak regime from running for office. The Muslim Brotherhood was hoping that Shafiq would be removed from the ballot, eliminating the need for a runoff campaign and effectively handing over the Presidency to Mursi.
Deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been incarcerated since being found guilty of complicity in the deaths of more than 800 protesters in the 'Arab Spring' uprising that took place in early 2011. He reportedly suffered a heart attack shortly after arriving in prison and his health has been steadily deteriorating since then.