« Transgender Pageant Winner Murdered in South Africa | Main | World's First Mammoth Graveyard Discovered in Serbia »

Egyptian 'Coup' Dissolves Parliament

Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq attends a press conference in Cairo. (AFP/GettyImages)(CAIRO) -- In the final days before this weekend's landmark presidential run-off election, Thursday brought a pair of decisions that threw Egypt's fledgling democracy into doubt.

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that one third of the Muslim Brotherhood-led Parliament must be immediately dissolved. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the country's ruling military, quickly declared full legislative authority, saying that if a portion of the parliament was unconstitutional, that rendered the entire parliament unconstitutional.

"We saw a coup in Egypt today," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha center. "It was an all out power grab. The regime's apparatus is going into full force. And so far, it's a remarkable and successful coup."

In the second ruling, the Mubarak-appointed judges voted that Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt's former interim prime minister during the revolution, will be allowed to remain on the ballot in the run-off election against the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi, scheduled for June 16 and 17.

"All this equals a complete coup d'etat through which the military council is writing off the most noble stage in the nation's history," Mohamed el-Beltagy, a senior member of Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, wrote on his Facebook wall. "This is the Egypt which Shafiq and the military council desire."

Shortly after the rulings were handed down, Shafiq gave a press conference that looked and sounded much like a victory speech. Shafiq told a cheering crowd, "The age of settling accounts is over and gone. The age of using the law and the country's institutions against any individual is over."

In his speech, Shafiq, a close friend of Mubarak's, described a modern, free Egypt where every individual has a vote, promising landmark reforms. "We love you, President Shafiq," the crowd chanted in response.

But former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Mohamed El Baradei warned that Egypt is entering a dangerous phase.

"Electing a president without having a constitution or parliament means electing a president with absolute power," el-Baradei said.

After the recent parliament elections, the Muslim Brotherhood stands to lose the most from today's rulings, and many wondered whether Morsi would still run this weekend or whether the Muslim Brotherhood would pull out in protest.

The Council on Foreign Relations' Steven Cook described two camps arising out of today's decisions: "Those [Muslim Brotherhood members] that believe Egypt is still within their grasp, and those [Muslim Brotherhood members] that are more reluctant to continue the fight, reluctant to run at all."

But former presidential candidate Abul Fotoh said Egyptians were up for the fight.

"Keeping the military candidate (in the race) and overturning the elected parliament after granting the military police the right to arrest is a complete coup and whoever thinks that millions of youth will let it pass is deluding themselves," Fotoh said in a statement.

Michael Hanna, fellow at the Century Foundation, isn't sure young revolutionaries will be as eager as last year.

"There is still a huge gulf of mistrust between the Muslim Brotherhood and the revolutionaries which presents a real stumbling block," he said. Whether people take their outrage to the voting booths, or to the street is yet to be seen.

Today's rulings come on the heels of a Justice Ministry decree on Wednesday that granted the military council authority to arrest civilians. The legal combination leaves SCAF squarely at the helm for the foreseeable future. And if Shafiq wins, many argue that it will effectively set the clock back to February 2011.

"With no parliament, and no constitution, [the military] will be governing the country," said Hamid. "SCAF has outmaneuvered everyone, and it has been masterful."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio