When the Islamist-led People’s Assembly – the lower house of Egypt's parliament – convened for the first time on 23 January, many expected that it would not last long. Constitutional law professors agreed that the assembly would likely soon be dissolved because the law that regulated its election was clearly discriminatory against independent candidates, allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to replace ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) as the country's premier political power.
Amr Hashem Rabie, a political analyst at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, says the Brotherhood first exerted pressure on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to begin the process of democratic transition by holding parliamentary elections ahead of writing the constitution.
"This went against the wishes of secular forces, which saw that the writing of the constitution should precede elections and that, if elections were held first, the results would mainly serve the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood and give it a sweeping majority," said Rabie.
Worse, he added, the Brotherhood also pressed hard to force the SCAF to scrap a draft law that allocated 50 per cent of the seats in parliament to independent candidates and 50 per cent to party-based candidates, in favour of a law allocating two thirds of seats to party-based candidates and only one third to independents.
"Although constitutional law professors complained that this was unconstitutional, the SCAF responded, and even agreed, that the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and other parties be allowed to contest seats reserved for independents," said Rabie.
On Thursday, the Muslim Brotherhood paid the price when Egypt's High Constitutional Court (HCC) ordered the dissolution of the People’s Assembly. According to Rabie, the group's domineering tactics in the last five months are primarily to blame for the dissolution of parliament.
The Brotherhood, for its part, insists that the HCC’s ruling was political and came as a result of the group's severe criticisms of the SCAF and judiciary.
"This is absolutely untrue and conflicts with the widespread conviction among many Egyptians that the Parliamentary Election Law was tailored to serve the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood," said Hassan Abu-Taleb, another Ahram political analyst. According to Abu-Taleb, "We gained nothing from this parliament except the conviction that Islamists are far worse than Mubarak’s NDP stalwarts in their desire to control political power in Egypt."
He added: "Both aim to have a majority in parliament and both use the same tactics, especially tailoring unconstitutional laws."
Abu-Taleb believes that the HCC ruling is clear in that the People’s Assembly cannot meet again. "This will bring us back to the correct path: drafting a constitution ahead of parliamentary elections," he said.
This, Abu-Taleb added, will ensure that "Islamists will not be able any longer to impose their religious agenda on the constitution, even if their candidate, Mohamed Morsi, wins the presidential election."
He went on: "The Brotherhood lost almost 90 per cent of its power after parliament was dissolved. Even if Morsi is elected, he will be a lame-duck president."
On Friday, the general secretariat of the People’s Assembly received an official letter from the SCAF stating that "parliamentarians are no longer allowed to enter the assembly building since Thursday's HCC ruling was clear that the assembly has been made invalid. This order must be implemented immediately."
The People’s Assembly had been scheduled to discuss the 2012/13 state budget and development plan next Tuesday. "After the assembly was dissolved, the budget and plan will have to be ratified by the SCAF, which is now the main legislator in Egypt," said Abu-Taleb.
Although the HCC has said that its ruling does not apply to the Shura Council – the upper consultative house of parliament – Abu-Taleb believes that the upper house, too, could soon be dissolved.
"The law, which brought about the downfall of the People’s Assembly, could also hit the Shura Council," said Abu-Taleb, adding that "if a lawyer was file an appeal before the administrative court requesting the dissolution of the Shura Council, the court would likely accept it and refer it to the HCC."