Is Egypt sliding backwards? In separate rulings on Thursday, Egypt's highest court called for the dissolution of the recently elected parliament, and cleared a Mubarak-era prime minister to stand for the presidency.
Neither decision can be appealed; both seemed to be aimed at the Muslim Brotherhood. Many Egyptian citizens are outraged. The court is staffed largely by judges left over from Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime, who are sympathetic to the military.
Backdoor military coup?
In the more alarming of the two rulings, the court declared one-third of the seats won in last winter's parliamentary elections "illegitimate". As a result, the entire legislative body is deemed unconstitutional. It will have to be dissolved and fresh elections called. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won nearly 50% of the vote, and many of its MPs are among those now disqualified. A Brotherhood lawmaker said the decision would send Egypt into a "dark tunnel". And he is not alone: many liberal reformers were quick to label the decision a backdoor military coup.
In the second ruling, the court cleared Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, to take part in this weekend's presidential runoff. Shafiq, the clear choice of the military council (Scaf) that has been running Egypt since Mubarak's ouster, will face Mohammed Morsi, a senior leader in the Brotherhood. Many had hoped that Shafiq would be disqualified under a new law that would ban top-tier Mubarak officials from running for office.
Now, just two days before the final round of Egypt's first ever free presidential polls, a court dominated by the military has torn up the democratic process. A year after the crowds in Tahrir Square forced Mubarak out and seemingly ushered in a new era of freedom, protesters are back on the street, martial law has been declared once more, and the army seems to be running the country.