Omar Ashour, an expert on Islamist movements who is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, said the court’s decision could signal a move by the ruling military council to intervene in the democratic transition. Removing the military from a political role is one of the major challenges Egypt faces in the years ahead.
“That the administrative court would enter into such a political and ideological battle is not a good sign,” he said. He noted that there are two court cases pending to dissolve the parliament, a move that could throw the transition into chaos.
Now some new body – its composition and selection process as yet unclear – will be tasked with writing the constitution. Some liberals rejoiced in the court’s decision, hoping it would result in a constituent assembly that was more inclusive.
Secular parties had wanted fewer of the members to come from the elected parliament, which is dominated by Islamist parties. In the three-stage election that spanned the end of last year and the beginning of 2012, the FJP and the ultraconservative Nour Party came in first and second, and then worked together to appoint the constituent assembly.
Liberals objected not only to the fact that about 60 percent of the assembly came from an Islamist background but also to the apparent lack of criteria for selecting members, which meant a young spokesman for the Nour Party was included but notable constitutional experts were left off the panel. Few Christians or women were included, and Egypt's Bedouin and Nubian minorities were also underrepresented.