Egypt’s lingering Mubarak-appointed supreme court on Thursday ruled that the democratically elected, Islamist-led Parliament must be dissolved, citing widespread violations of a rule intended to divide the house between candidates running individually and under party banners. The decision returns legislative power to the country’s military junta less than a week before a scheduled presidential election.

Many candidates associated with political parties won seats in the individual division, which comprises one-third of the legislature. The New York Times reported they had been granted permission to do so by some unnamed but presumably official authority before the election took place.

It is unclear why the entire legislature was dissolved, rather than simply those seats the court deemed improperly gained.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the major contender against Mubarak-era holdovers seeking office in the legislature and the presidency, won 235 seats in the 508-member assembly, 100 of them individual candidates running under the Brotherhood’s banner. Loss of those seats would diminish the Brotherhood’s legislative power.

There are no grounds to appeal the ruling by Egypt’s highest court. Military authorities reimposed martial law Wednesday in anticipation that the decision would anger citizens, as it did.

Weeks before the ruling, the supreme court struck down a law passed by Parliament banning Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s last prime minister, and other high-ranking officials from the Mubarak administration from seeking the presidency. That ruling was confirmed Thursday by the high court and Shafik will enter a runoff election against the Islamist candidate Mohamed Morsi this weekend.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

The New York Times:

“Egypt just witnessed the smoothest military coup,” Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, wrote in an online commentary. “We’d be outraged if we weren’t so exhausted.”

Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brookings Doha Center, said: “From a democratic perspective, it is the worst possible outcome imaginable. The democratically elected Parliament was the biggest step in Egypt’s transition, and this casts the entire transition into doubt. It is an anti-democratic decision.”

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