A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Egyptian Supreme Court Dissolves Parliament but Keeps Shafiq in Race: Double Blow to MB on Eve of Elections

 On a day when Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court handed down two decisions which each could have thrown the country into chaos, it chose to deliver one shocking blow to the transitional process but to avoid the second: it effectively dissolved Parliament, but it left Ahmad Shafiq in the Presidential race,so that the runoff election will take place this weekend. Had it alsl disqualified Shafiq, the whole transition would likely have collapsed. As it is, the decision not only dissolves :Parliament but also presumably the just-named Constituent Assembly named by Parliament,

Though the Court ruling only invalidated the Parliamentary election law for the 1/3 of the seats elected on an individual basis, a Court official said that it requires the dissolution of both houses of Parliament, the People's Assembly and the Shura Council.

For a backgrounder on the two cases decided today, see here. Also for background see Mara Revkin on "Egypt's Injudicious Judges."

There is no question who the big loser is. By dissolving the Islamist-dominated Parliament but leaving old regime secularist Shafiq in the race for President, the decisions will likely be taken by the Muslim Brotherhood as a double blow. Had Shafiq been disqualified Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Morsi would either have won by default or new elections would be required; and by losing :Parliament the Brotherhood risks losing most of what it has gained, One Brotherhood spokesman has already called the decision a "military coup," and Morsi is to speak soon, Former Presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abu'l-Futuh has echoed the "military coup" judgment and linked these two decisions to yesterday's announcement that military police could arrest civilians in support of that interpretation.

And if, as some are saying, SCAF now assumes both the powers of Parliament and of the Constituent Assembly, the "military coup" judgment doesn't seem far fetched.

It's too soon to judge just how things will play out but my initial reaction is that just as this was already the worst possible choice of two candidates, this is the worst possible set of decisions: by dissolving Parliament and keeping Shafiq in the race it gives the impression of rolling back the revolution and disenfranchising the Brotherhood, through a court decision not the ballot box, while yesterday's arrest announcement seems to restore the State of Emergency.

The dangers of a renewed revolution, but this time with the Brotherhood fully supportive from the start, or a bloody, repressive crackdown seem more real than at any time since the fall of Mubarak. I think there is real danger here.

There will surely be much more to say here.

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