Military shuts down Egypt’s parliament

Updated 1:55 PM EDT, Fri June 15, 2012

Story highlights

NEW: The military council holds an emergency meeting on the constitution

The nation's military rulers declare full legislative authority

The court also clears the way for Ahmed Shafik, a former foreign minister, to run

Egyptians will go to the polls this weekend to pick a president

(CNN) —  

On the eve of a presidential runoff election, Egypt’s military council formally dissolved parliament Friday, in line with a ruling from the nation’s top court that declared the legislative body invalid.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – the military rulers in control of the country since the fall of Hosni Mubarak – officially informed parliament that it was dissolved, said Maj. Mohamed Askar, a spokesman for the council.

He said there was no notice to lawmakers denying them access but a report posted on the English website of Al-Ahram newspaper said entry was barred.

The military council, known by its acronym SCAF, claimed full legislative power after the High Constitutional Court’s ruling Thursday that the constitutional articles that regulated parliamentary elections were invalid.

Gen. Hussein Tantawi, the head of SCAF and Egypt’s de facto ruler, was in an emergency meeting with the council Friday to discuss the drafting of a new constitution. The council is widely expected to issue its own interim constitutional charter.

Analysts: ‘Soft coup’ court ruling could reignite Egyptian revolution

The court’s ruling triggered fears that Egypt’s revolution will unravel and Cairo braced for angry protests Friday night. By evening, however, the capital was surprisingly quiet though a few protesters chanted in the streets calling for a boycott of the voting that begins Saturday.

The runoff election pits Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood against Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak.

In its ruling, the high court cleared the way for Shafik to run after rejecting a new law that barred members of Mubarak’s regime from office.

Some people reacted to the rulings with reluctant acceptance.

“If we challenge the court’s decision, then there wouldn’t be anything left,” said Mahmoud Mabrouk. “If we challenge the court, nothing will ever work again. Who else can we find to trust?”

Mabrouk’s words reflected a sense of tiredness among Egyptians, weary from a political process that has now gone on for months.

“Whatever the outcome is I will accept it,” said Abdulwahed Bourham. “The ballot box speaks.”

The election of a president without a parliament means that whoever wins the runoff will be in a powerful position and will deal directly with the military rulers while a new constitution is written and until new parliamentary elections are held.

Some called the move political as the parliament was dominated by Islamists, a group long viewed with suspicion by the military.

A wild election weekend for Egypt, France and Greece

The court ruling was “a complete coup d’etat through which the military council is writing off the most noble stage in the nation’s history,” said Mohamed el-Beltagy, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner who waged a failed presidential bid, called for the country’s military rulers to postpone the runoff election.

“Electing president in the absence of constitution and parliament is electing an ‘emperor’ with more powers than deposed dictator. A travesty,” he tweeted Friday.

Meanwhile, activists called for Friday protests.

A youth group, calling itself the April 6 Movement, took to Facebook to call for early evening demonstrations to protest what it described as a “soft coup” by the military rulers.

The group accused the military council of “trying its best to stay in power as long as they can in order to safeguard their interests, and we will not accept that at all,” according to a Facebook posting.

Egypt’s presidential runoff to go ahead despite concerns

CNN’s Ivan Watson contributed to this report.