Egypt’s pro-democracy activists are calling Thursday’s ruling by the country’s highest court that dissolved an elected lower house of parliament but allowed a prime minister in the former strongman Hosni Mubarak’s cabinet to contest presidential elections as a “de facto military coup” that has set the stage for the next phase of a meandering revolution.

Former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh, a soft Islamist, who had projected himself as a bridge between Muslim hardliners and diehard liberals, said that the judgment that followed an earlier ruling, which gave the army sweeping powers to carry out arbitrary arrests, as nothing short of a “military coup.”

But far from being despondent, he predicted that the military’s stratagem to crush civil liberties and manipulate the country’s basic law, will be short lived. "Anyone who believes that Egypt's millions of revolutionary youth will allow this to pass must be delusional," he asserted.

Egypt’s young activists, who were at the heart of the uprising that brought down Mr. Mubarak, agreed that Thursday’s rulings marked a major assault on their aspirations for democracy. “We are now legally, constitutionally, and directly under military rule/dictatorship,” tweeted Gigi Ibrahim, a young activist who emerged as a one of the stars last year of the 18-day anti-Mubarak revolt. Much of the anger among the liberal campaigners is directed against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)-the military clique that is running the country, and which now seems ready to define Egypt’s post-Mubarak constitution.

Many among the youth activists are of the view that Thursday’s ruling is part of larger plot hatched by SCAF to bring back into power, remnants of Mr. Mubarak’s regime. Ahmed Maher, the founder of the April 6 Youth Movement that pioneered the anti-Mubarak uprising, described the ruling as provocative: "The verdict means the ousted regime is being re-established and revolution must continue," he said.

He added: "I was against the performance of parliament, but the SCAF now has the legislative authority and this will have major political implications." Others in the youth brigade also advocate that the protesters must now be prepared for the long haul, notwithstanding the inability of the liberals to meld a pro-revolution critical mass.

“No revolution gets settled in 18 days or 18 months. If we all agree that this is a war with the regime that will last for several years, then why everyone is suddenly panicking and saying it’s over?, wrote Hossam El- Hamalawy, a socialist activist on the website jadaliyya.com.

Not entirely in disagreement with the liberal youth, the Islamists belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood recognise that the old-guard is making a feverish attempt to stage a comeback. Within hours of the court’s ruling, Mohamed Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, who will be facing off over the weekend with Ahmed Shafiq, Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, said at a press conference that there are around 400 Mubarak-era figures that are using different routes, including the judiciary to arrive centre-stage.

His words seemed to focus on the much larger and deeply rooted pro-Mubarak network that the protesters may have to combat in order to advance. “The system was like a machine with a plastic cover, and what we did was knock off the cover,” said Islam Lotfy, a well- known activist formerly with the Muslim Brotherhood as saying, as quoted in the New York Times.

Unlike many among the motley in Liberal and Leftist tent, who wish to de-legitimise the weekend presidential vote with a boycott after the court’s ruling, the Muslim Brotherhood is canvassing for a large turnout. Mr. Morsy stressed that there is no option but “the revolution at the ballot boxes”.

In his response to the future course of action, elder statesman Mohamed ElBaradei called for the postponement of the presidential elections and the formation of a presidential council that would steer the drafting of a new constitution before fresh polls can be held.

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