"Legal coup" derails Egypt's democracy bid

Supreme Court ruled that Egypt's first democratically-elected parliament should be dissolved.
CBS News

(CBS News) CAIRO - Egypt's presidential election is set for this weekend. But it was thrown into chaos Thursday with two rulings by judges appointed by the ousted leader, Hosni Mubarak. Their decisions keep the military in power.

The Supreme Court ruled that Egypt's first democratically-elected parliament should be dissolved. At the same time, the court delivered good news to former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. It struck down a law which would have barred him from office because he was part of the ousted Mubarak regime.

The ruling clears the way for a showdown between Shafiq, a remnant of the old order, and Mohammed Morsi, a member of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood in the run-off vote this weekend.

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Dissolving parliament hands the military the authority to write the new constitution. That will decide how much power the president has.

It translates to only one thing in the view of Professor Khalid Fahmy of the American University in Cairo. "This is a coup," he says."It's a legal coup -- not legal because it's legitimate -- but legal in the sense that the army has staged a coup using the courts."

The military also issued a decree giving the police and intelligence services the right to arrest anyone resisting the authorities, halting traffic, damaging buildings or harming government security -- which in effect allows for a total clampdown on protests.

"The gloves are off," said Fahmy. "They have made it very clear what it is that they want. They want to return back with a vengeance to the previous regime, and this is something that is just untenable. We cannot do this."

The protesters, who thought they'd won the fight for a free and transparent system of government, now find their revolution mired in a political environment that is as muddy and polluted as the Nile River.

And the political maneuvering is far from over. The Muslim Brotherhood warned that its supporters would take to the streets again if it was necessary to prevent what it called a return to the old corrupt ways.