A state of political uncertainty swept across Egypt after the country's Supreme Constitutional Court issued two rulings: one that overturned the country's political isolation law and one that dissolved its recently elected People's Assembly.
The rulings were announced Thursday (June 14th), two days before former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, are scheduled to square off in the second round of Egypt's landmark presidential elections.
Egypt's political isolation law, approved by parliament in April, prevented top officials who served in the past ten years of former President Hosni Mubarak's tenure from running for public office.
These officials include Mubarak's former vice president, prime minister, head of the dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP), the party's secretary-general and members of its politburo and secretariat.
But the court decision said this law violated the concept of equality in the judicial system because it denied former regime officials their political rights.
"The political isolation law is contradictory to the constitutional rights agreed upon in previous Egyptian constitutions, including the 1971 Constitution and the provisional Constitutional Declaration issued in March 2011, which states that no one can be stripped of their rights without a fair trial," legal specialist Bahaa abu Shaqa told Al-Shorfa.
Abu Shaqa said the court saw the political isolation law as denying a segment of society its political rights.
If these officials had undertaken activities of a criminal nature, they should be punished for these crimes, not stripped of their political rights as citizens, he said.
"The orders of the Constitutional Court are not to be challenged and they are valid and enforceable upon issuance," he said.
The court also issued a ruling that invalidated the recent elections for Egypt's lower house of parliament, the People's Assembly, because they were based on what the court said was an unconstitutional law.
The law violated the country's Constitutional Declaration, which states that elections must be held according to an electoral system allocating two-thirds of seats in the assembly to political party representatives and the remaining seats to independent candidates, the court said.
According to the ruling, the election law is unconstitutional because it allowed candidates from political parties to run for seats allocated for independent candidates.
The political parties "competed with the independent candidates on [the latter's] allotted quota", it said.
The ruling dissolved the entire assembly, not just one-third of its independent members, Farouq al-Sultan, the court's chairman, said in a press statement. It did not affect the Shura Council, the upper chamber of parliament, whose members were elected based on the same election law.
Al-Sultan said the ruling does not dissolve the Shura Council because the lawsuit on which the ruling was based only involved the People's Assembly.
To dissolve the Shura Council would require another lawsuit, he said.
"I respect the decision of the Supreme Constitutional Court in that I respect the institutions of the state and the principle of separation of powers," AFP reported presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi as saying.
Rival presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq told supporters that the court had made a "historic ruling and verdict that meant there was no way for anyone to [create] particular laws for particular people," according to BBC.
Mohammed Anwar Ismat al-Sadat, a member of the dissolved People's Assembly who had led the human rights committee, told Al-Shorfa that he will respect the court's ruling.
"The revolution started on the basis that the law and the judiciary are to be respected, which is why members of the legislative branch have to be role models for the people in this regard," al-Sadat said.
He said the parliamentary elections law had "violated the constitutional rights of independent [candidates] by allowing those who belonged to political parties to run for independent seats".
Sadat said independent candidates were granted this quota to create diversity within the People's Assembly.
Dr. Aiman Salama, a law professor, told Al-Shorfa that as soon as the People's Assembly is dissolved, legislative power will be in the hands of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as it was before the parliamentary elections.
He said all legislation that was passed by the dissolved People's Assembly is constitutional and legal as long as no contrary ruling has been issued by the Supreme Constitutional Court.