Court Ruling Casts Cloud of Confusion over Egypt

Posted June 15th, 2012 at 1:55 am (UTC-5)
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Egypt is bracing for protests Friday after judges appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak dissolved the Islamist-led parliament and allowed his former prime minister to compete in a presidential run-off election.

The ruling by Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court was immediately denounced Thursday by senior Muslim Brotherhood officials, who said it amounted to a power grab by those loyal to the Mubarak government ousted last year in a popular revolt.

Egypt's interim military rulers, who now assume legislative power, were quoted in state media as saying the two-day run-off between the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq will begin as scheduled on Saturday.

Morsi said Thursday he respects the ruling. But he told Egyptian television that he was dissatisfied with the court's decision to strike down a law passed by parliament last month barring former Mubarak officials from running for office.

Regarding parliament, the high court found that one-third of the Egyptian legislature was elected illegally, making the entire body unconstitutional and necessitating new parliamentary elections.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington is monitoring the situation and expects to see a “full transfer of power to a democratically-elected civilian government.”

“There can be no going back on the democratic transition called for by the Egyptian people,” said Clinton.

Word of the court rulings was met Thursday with anger and distrust by people outside the courthouse in Cairo, sparking chants demanding the downfall of what was termed “the military regime.”

One protester, Mohamed Abdullah, told VOA it shows the powers that be are looking for ways to stop change.

“Today it's clear that everyone wants to hand over power to Shafiq. The deal with Shafiq is he's like a cat with nine lives. Shafiq is Mubarak's dog. He's the one protecting the regime.”

Another demonstrator, Mohamed Hussein, called the ruling an outrage.

“By what logic can we return the tyrannical old regime? Where is the justice in that? We had a revolution and no revolution in the world brings back a tyrannical regime.”

Speaking to supporters in Cairo Thursday, Ahmed Shafiq called the ruling “historic” and urged all Egyptians to take part in the polls. He promised Egypt would return to greatness, saying its future would be written now.

He also rejected the use of violence, saying there is no need to use threats, and said he would respect the rights of all Egyptians to protest.

“The era of political score settling has ended and the individualization of the law or the use of the nation's statutes to achieve the goals of a single group against a person or another group has now gone forever.''

Some political activists, like Mohamed Fawaz with the 6th of April Movement, say despite some shock and anger on the streets, the court rulings were expected.

“It is very logical that the law [to disqualify Ahmed Shafiq from the elections] was refused. I have always expected that the law will be found void. We are talking about all the organizations of the country working together so that Ahmed Shafiq would become president, to return the Mubarak regime once again and to continue the military rule that has been going for 60 years.”

Lawyer Tarek Nagida says the country's military council will now have to step in while parliament steps down.

“The parliament has to suspend its sessions because it lost its legitimacy by losing one-third of its members and, in this case, the parliament has to wait until the ruling power calls for new elections for the third of the seats of the parliament.”

The Muslim Brotherhood said the court ruling indicated that Egypt was heading into “very difficult days that might be more dangerous than the last days of Mubarak's rule.” Senior Brotherhood leader and lawmaker Mohamed el-Beltagy said the judge's decision amounts to a “full-fledged coup.”

Former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh said he was especially concerned about a decree issued Wednesday that allows military police to detain civilians. Some critics say the move essentially places Egypt under martial law.