Egypt: Streets erupt as court dissolves parliament in 'coup'

June 17, 2012

Egypt's second-round presidential elections between ex-regime figure Ahmed Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi will go ahead after the High Constitutional Court (HCC) ruled on June 14 that Shafiq's candidacy was constitutional.

The ruling declared that the Political Disenfanchisement Law, which barred ex-members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) from holding high government offices, was unconstitional.

In what came as a shock to many, the HCC also said Egypt's Parliamentary Elections Law, which had regulated last year's parliamentary elections, was unconstitutional, dissolving the lower house People's Assembly.

The elections last year brought the Muslim Brotherhood to the fore and, combined with the Salafist al-Nour party, gave the Islamists a majority. Morsi, the Brotherhood's candidate in the presidential elections, led the first round of voting over May 23-24.

But Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, a legislator from the Social Democratic Party, said Egypt's electoral law was "flawed and brought in a flawed parliament," Reuters reported on June 15.

"Parliament had lost much of its stature and credibility ... because of the Islamist parties' misuse of the majority they enjoyed."

But many activists have called the moves a "coup". Enjy Hamdy, from the leading activist organisation the April 6 Youth Movement (A6YM), said: "This all must be seen as a military coup, an attempt by the army to stay in power longer to protect their interests, which we will not accept."

First-round candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh also called the results "an obvious military coup", reported Bikya Masr.

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), who have retained presidential powers since Mubarak was ousted on February 11 last year, has blamed ongoing protests and struggles for democratic reform on "foreign hands", while refusing popular calls to relinquish their authority to a civilian "salvation council" to oversee Egypt's elections.

Ahram Online reporter Wael Eskaner tweeted in response to the ruling: "It's not true that Egyptians aren't ready for democracy, it's the Egyptian regime that isn't."

Angry protests were launched around the country after the results. Two thousand protesters marched from Mohandeseen to Tahrir Square in Cairo on June 15 in a protest called by the Revolutionary Socialists, A6YM and others, Ahram Online said.

However, despite thousands taking to Tahrir Square, street protests did not reach the critical mass needed to shut down the city.

Ahram Online's reporter said marchers tore down and defaced campaign posters for Shafiq. Immediately after the results images becan circulating social media of protesters stamping on Shafiq's posters or hitting them with shoes.

Despite the protests, the presidential run-off was set to go ahead at the weekend of June 16-17.

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I have to take exception with Ziad Bahaa-Eldin's comments, particularly if Reuters in right in saying that Bahaa -Eldin "welcomed the latest twist from the judges, hoping for better representation in a new parliament."

This would be completely opportunistic and idiotic, if true. Let us take for granted that the parliament is flawed. On the specifics, though, of the Political Disenfanchisement Law banning ex-Mubarak regime figures from running, I think that is absolutely worthy of support and those involved in the democratic revolution seemed to mostly support that.

Bahaa-Eldin goes on to say "Parliament had lost much of its stature and credibility ... because of the Islamist parties' misuse of the majority they enjoyed." In so far as this justifies the dissolving of the parliament, it is absolutely disgraceful. I don't know much of the ins and outs of what has happened in the Egyptian parliament but what I do now is that dissolving parliament and having the military assume powers in a coup will do nothing to solve any of the problems, real or imagined. If the Social Democratic party are hoping that this will lead to a more "liberal" outcome or them gaining more influence, they are truly deluded. But it is fairly true to form for them, they also wish to reduce the state's role in the economy and "normalize" Egypt's relationship with Israel. I really don't think they are worth quoting as an authority on anything, like good liberals, they take fright at the prospect of people asserting themselves and so go on to support a military coup in the name of liberalism.

Tim Dobson