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Egypt court dissolves Islamist-led parliament

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In its ruling, the court said a third of the legislature was elected illegally, and as a result, "the makeup of the entire chamber is illegal and, consequently, it does not legally stand."

The explanation was carried by Egypt’s official news agency and confirmed to The Associated Press by one of the court’s judges, Maher Sami Youssef.

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The law governing the parliamentary elections was ruled unconstitutional by a lower court because it breached the principle of equality when it allowed party members to contest a third of the seats set aside for independents. The remaining two-thirds were contested by party slates.

In a separate ruling, the court said Shafiq could stay in the runoff election, rejecting a law passed by parliament last month that barred prominent figures from the old regime from running for office.

Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison on June 2 for failing to prevent the killing of some 900 protesters during the uprising. About three dozen figures from his regime are also in prison, either charged with or convicted of corruption.

Defenders of the law argued that after a revolution aimed at removing Mubarak, parliament had a right to prevent regime members from returning to power. The law’s opponents called it political revenge targeting Shafiq. The court said the law was not based on "objective grounds" and was discriminatory, violating "the principle of equality."

"This historic ruling sends the message that the era of score-settling and tailor-made law is over," Shafiq said at his rally.

Now, elections will have to be organized to choose a new parliament, and the Brotherhood is in a weaker position than it was during its powerful showing in the first election, held over three months starting in November 2011.

After its election victory, the Brotherhood tried to translate those gains into governing power but was repeatedly stymied by the military.

At the same time, there has been widespread public dissatisfaction with the Islamist-led parliament, which many criticized as ineffective. The Brotherhood’s popularity has also declined because of moves that critics saw as attempts to monopolize the political scene and advance its own power. It angered liberals, leftists and secular Egyptians when it and other Islamists tried to dominate a parliament-created panel writing a new constitution. The panel was dissolved by court order, and a second one was selected by parliament in a process that was boycotted by liberals who accused the Brotherhood of packing it with Islamists, as they did with the first one.

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The dissolution of parliament now raises the possibility that the military council could appoint the panel, a step that would fuel accusations that it is hijacking the process.

The legal adviser of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm, said the court rulings were "political," lamenting the outgoing legislature as the country’s "only legitimate and elected body."

"They are hoping to hand it over to Ahmed Shafiq and make him the only legal authority in the absence of parliament. The people will not accept this and we will isolate the toppled regime," Mukhtar el-Ashry said in a posting on the party’s website.

A moderate Islamist and a former presidential candidate, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, warned that the pro-democracy groups which engineered the uprising would protest the court’s rulings.

"Those who believe that the millions of young people will let this pass are fooling themselves," he wrote on his Twitter account.

Lobna Darwish, an activist and longtime critic of the military, said the rulings showed the entire electoral process was a "distraction" from organizing people in neighborhoods to realize the goals of the uprising.

"The military ended up getting everything and we got nothing," she said.

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