The Egyptian Supreme Court’s decision to dissolve parliament and allow a former Mubarak official to remain a candidate in the country’s elections is a major blow to Egypt’s political transition just day before the country is scheduled to vote in a runoff presidential poll.
Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, whose judges were appointed by imprisoned former President Hosni Mubarak and remain close to military officials, dissolved the country’s most important legislative body under the pretense political parties had fielded candidates in seats reserved for independent members of parliament.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, which holds the near majority of seats in the legislative body’s lower house, stands to lose the most from the decision. The Egyptian military will reportedly assume Parliament’s legislative powers and responsibilities.
The Court also over-ruled a law that would have barred former Mubarak officials, like Ahmed Shafiq, from running for President. The Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Muhammed Mursi, will face off against Shafiq this weekend.
Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow on the Middle East Stephen A. Cook says counter-revolutionary groups and former elements of the Mubarak regime have over the past several months been able to outmaneuver the country’s new political parties.
“A variety of new groups in the country thought those inspiring 18 days in late January and February 2011 had finally done away with the regime military officers ushered in the 1950’s.” Cook said in conference call Thursday. “Clearly this morning they seemed to be proven quite wrong.”
While Thursday’s ruling has led to renewed protests against Egypt’s powerful Supreme Council of Armed Forces, it remains unclear how the court’s decision will impact election results.
CFR fellow Isobel Coleman says the ruling might in fact increase political dialogue and negotiations between different factions of the Muslim Brotherhood and SCAF.
“People recognize that the counter-revolutionary forces are just not moving over and so then the big question to come, what will the major players do, the Muslim Brotherhood in particular.” she said during the conference call.
Public opinion initially favored the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Muhammed Mursi, and while Cook and Coleman say it’s still anyone’s race, they noted the ruling could give Shafiq an edge.
“The military and the general intelligence service and parts of the old regime worked very hard…to truly revive the old regime’s networks and I think that that works to Shaffiq’s advantage.” Cook said.
“We’ve also had senior members of the Brotherhood in the last 24 hours say they don’t expect Mursi to win” added Coleman. “They are therefore talking to Shafiq and the military about the role they can have in the parliament.”