Egypt’s highest court ruled Thursday that the Islamist-dominated parliament should be dissolved because one-third of its members were elected unlawfully, blunting the astonishing political ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood and imperiling the country’s transition to democratic rule. The decision and a second one safeguarding the presidential candidacy of former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq quickly strengthened the hand of forces linked to Egypt’s old regime, and significantly raised the stakes of the weekend’s runoff vote between Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi.
The parliamentary ruling washed away the modest system of checks and balances that Islamists and revolutionaries had sought to build in the 16 months since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak. Revolutionaries decried the court decisions, which cannot be appealed, as irrefutable proof that the country’s military chiefs had used the veneer of last year’s revolt to stage a coup. “We had people on the streets, but it was all usurped by the military,” said Nora Soliman, one of the founding members of the liberal Justice Party. “The military succeeded in playing on people’s fear of a state on the verge of collapse.”