Cairo: Egypt's apex court on Sunday struck down two laws as illegal by which upper house of Parliament and the Constituent Assembly were elected, dealing a major blow to the ruling Islamists' grip on power. In its ruling, the Supreme Constitutional Court said the law governing the elections of the Islamist-dominated Shura Council was unconstitutional as well as the criteria set for the selection of the Constituent Assembly members.
Presiding Judge Maher al-Beheiry said the Council should remain in place until the election of a new parliament. Today's ruling came in response to several challenges filed by lawyers against the two laws, state-run MENA news agency reported.
President Mohammed Mursi had set up the 100-member Constituent Assembly to draw up the country's first post-revolution Constitution after the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. The constitution was adopted by a nationwide vote in December.
Presiding Judge Maher al-Beheiry said the Council should remain in place until the election of a new parliament.
Opposition parties have been accusing Mursi of using the Council to rush through an Islamist agenda and laws that have too many loopholes. Of the Council's 270 members, 180 were elected, and Mursi appointed the other 90.
Today's verdict could also heighten tension between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and the judiciary over reforms of the country's legal system. The Islamists are keen to remove Hosni Mubarak-era judges while judiciary sees it as an attempt to influence their ranks.
Meanwhile, the presidency in a statement said the upper house of parliament will maintain its legislative powers until a new parliament is elected. The Shura Council will "continue in its full legislative role until power is transferred to the new assembly", it said.
Both the upper and lower houses were elected under the same electoral law, prompting the dissolution of parliament. Last year, the same court had ruled unconstitutional some articles of the electoral law regulating last year's elections for the House of Representatives, as partisan candidates were allowed to run against independents for individual seats.
The House of Representatives was consequently dissolved. The court also ruled that the emergency law, that gives many powers to Mursi, who came to power on June 30, is not constitutional as well.