- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2012

Egypt’s top court plunged the country into turmoil Thursday when it ruled that the Islamist-dominated parliament must be dissolved and the last prime minister to serve under ousted President Hosni Mubarak can run as a candidate in this weekend’s presidential runoff election.

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which won the most seats in parliamentary elections, denounced the court decision as a “coup” and took to the streets of Cairo in protest.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed alarm at the upheaval and urged Egypt’s transitional ruling military council to allow the election to go forward.

Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency later reported that the council decided to hold the runoff vote as scheduled Saturday and Sunday when Egyptians will choose between former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi.

Muslim Brotherhood leader and lawmaker Mohammed el-Beltagy accused the court, comprised of judges appointed under Mubarak, of mounting a “full-fledged coup.”

“This is the Egypt that Shafiq and the military council want and which I will not accept no matter how dear the price is,” he wrote on his Facebook page, according to the Associated Press.

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, wrote on Twitter: “Egypt just witnessed the smoothest military coup. We’d be outraged if we weren’t so exhausted.”

The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court ordered the dismissal of the parliament because, it said, one-third of its members were elected illegally. It also overturned a law that would have banned Mr. Shafiq and other top leaders of the Mubarak government from running for office.

The court said the law, approved by the parliament just last month, was not based on “objective grounds” and violated “the principle of equality.”

Mr. Shafiq’s response to the court ruling sounded to some like a victory speech.

“This historic ruling sends the message that the era of score-settling and tailor-made law is over,” he told supporters in Cairo, according to the AP.

Mr. Shafiq may have every reason to feel upbeat. The court rulings are likely to result in a low voter turnout, which could hurt Mr. Morsi.

Mr. Shafiq’s critics say he is an extension of the Mubarak regime, while those opposed to Mr. Morsi worry about the Brotherhood’s Islamist agenda.

The court rulings could boost Mr. Shafiq’s prospects. Mr. Morsi, meanwhile, told Egyptian TV that he respects the court’s decision.

Protests in Cairo

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