Egypt's Constitutional Court has just ruled that its month-long parliamentary election was unconstitutional, ordering the entire lower house of Parliament to be dissolved. The court declared that one-third of the Parliamentary seats were voted on using different rules, making the entire body "illegitimate." That means the entire multi-step, multi-party election that began way back in November of 2011 is now invalid and new elections will have to be held.
The ruling is being referred to a "coup" in some circles, because the loss of Parliament means that control of the government will remain in the hands of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the panel of former military leaders that has managed Egypt since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The final round of the presidential elections meant to replace him takes place this weekend, which would have also meant the end of their rule and a final transition to the nation's first complete democratically elected government. Now the status of the country is up in the air. As The BBC's foreign editor Jon Williams noted on Twitter: "Even by #Egypt's standards, dissolving Parliament incredible. Anywhere else would be seen as coup. In Cairo, passes for normal business!"
The court also ruled that Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force general and member of Mubarak's regime who is up for the presidential office this weekend, can remain on the ballot. Earlier this year, the new Parliament disqualified him by passing a law stating that no one who served in a top position for Mubarak's government could run for office for five years. However, the Court also ruled that law to be unconstitutional, so the presidential vote will go ahead as scheduled with Shafik remaining eligible. He faces Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi in a run-off between the top two vote-getters.
No matter the outcome, however, the democratic process has temporarily been short-circuited as the SCAF will continue to control the country. In addition to the loss of Parliament, the Constituent Assembly —a 100-person committee appointed by Parliament just this week to draft a new constitution—will likely be disbanded as well, further delaying any meaningful reforms.