Egypt's highest court has ordered the dissolution of Parliament, dominated by Islamists, saying that conduct of the elections held around six months ago was unconstitutional. The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) observed on Thursday that election to one-third of the people's Assembly was illegal, which meant that “the makeup of the entire chamber is illegal and, consequently, it does not legally stand”. With this, the People's Assembly, the Lower House of the legislature, stands dissolved.

Farouk Sultan, head of the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC), however said the Shura Council, the Upper House, would not be dissolved. Also, all decisions made by the People's Assembly would remain valid.

The ruling comes as a big blow to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) dominates Parliament. Analysts say the judgment, which cannot be appealed, could be part of a “balancing act,” that may have been undertaken by the interim establishment. With the Muslim Brotherhood widely perceived of having the edge during the weekend run-off for the presidency, the dissolution of Parliament could be a move to prevent the Muslim Brothers from monopolising power.

As details of the judgment began to filter through, the Brotherhood adopted a defiant stance, saying that it had the resolve to overcome the obstacles. Dina Zakaria, co-founder of the Brotherhood's Committee for Foreign Relations told Ahram Online, that the “counter-revolution is trying to revive the old regime and will not accept civilian rule.” She added: “We should try to understand the reaction in the street and be patient, as we will eventually succeed.”

Others in the Islamist camp said they were prepared to contest fresh parliamentary elections.

After Thursday's ruling, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which assumed authority after Mr. Hosni Mubarak's departure, has stepped in to fill in the breach left in Parliament. It will now assume the legislative powers of the defunct People's Assembly.

Egypt's parliamentary elections had been based on a complex electoral system. It allowed voters to elect two-third of candidates drawn from party lists while the remaining were independents.

However, candidates from political parties in the end were permitted to run for these seats — a move that bolstered the Muslim Brotherhood's numbers in parliament.

The court also ruled as unconstitutional the disenfranchisement act passed by Parliament which disallowed from contesting elections, all those who had served in the Mubarak government in its last decade.

The ruling on Thursday said that this legislation violated the “principle of equality” and was not based on “objective grounds.”

As a result, the candidacy of Ahmed Shafiq, Mr. Mubarak's last Prime Minister has been upheld.

Mr. Shafiq, who stood second in the first round of polling, will lock horns with the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsy in the June 16-17 presidential runoff.

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