Egypt's tumultuous political process took another dramatic turn Thursday when its Supreme Constitutional Court effectively dissolved parliament, ruling that the election of one-third of its members last year was unconstitutional. The court also ruled that former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq can remain a presidential candidate in this weekend's runoff election, despite his close association with the former regime.
These back-to-back rulings have immediately strengthened the hand of the "old guard" at the expense of the Islamists, who held more than 70% of the seats in parliament before it was dissolved.
While some Muslim Brotherhood leaders are referring to the court's decisions as a "full-fledged coup," it is more accurate to see recent events as an energetic "counter-revolution."
The remnants of the establishment, including the economically privileged military and the Mubarak-appointed judiciary, are flexing the powers they never gave up to make sure they remain in control. The now dissolved parliament was supposed to establish a 100-member Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution; instead, the military has announced that it will determine the composition of the committee.
The constitution will determine such critical issues as how much power the president will wield, the role of Islam in society, and what oversight a civilian government will have over the military. In a sign of the military's intentions, it proposed in November that its budget be outside civilian scrutiny, sparking outrage and denunciations from opposition leaders who vowed to reign in military power. Now, the transition from military to civilian rule is back to square one.
On Wednesday, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces also issued a decree giving the military police and intelligence service the right to detain civilians and send them to military tribunals. Essentially, the decree replicates the dreaded State of Emergency law that was in effect for most of the past 30 years under Mubarak until it was overturned on May 31. The security forces are clearly girding for another round of massive street protests by Egypt's revolutionaries when they rally to resist the counter-revolution.