Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court has issued a pair of rulings that are likely to have far-reaching repercussions on the country's fledgling post-Mubarak political scene.
Officials in Egypt say the lower house of that country's national parliament will be dissolved after the court ruled on June 14 that one-third of the deputies in the Islamist-dominated chamber had been elected illegally.
In a separate decision the same day, the court also ruled that Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, may run in the presidential elections this weekend against Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi
The parliamentary ruling was reportedly based on evidence that some of the rules under which the recent parliamentary elections were held were unconstitutional.
The parliamentary vote was the first free polling since Mubarak, who had ruled the country for 30 years, was ousted in mass protests in February 2011.
In its ruling on the elections, the court said allowing political parties' candidates to run as independents was unconstitutional.
Under Egypt's complicated election legislation, two-thirds of the seats in parliament were contested on a proportional list system; the rest were allocated for independents.
The official MENA news agency quoted the court saying that "the parliamentary elections were not constitutional, and the entire composition of parliament has been illegitimate since its election."
State television said Egypt's ruling military council was holding an emergency meeting to discuss the consequences of the ruling.
A senior Muslim Brotherhood politician, Essam al-Arian, warned that the country "will enter a dark tunnel" if parliament is dissolved, although Mursi had said the Brotherhood would respect the court's ruling.
Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a moderate Islamist who took part in the first presidential round last month, described the rulings as "a complete coup."
Reports said protesters gathered outside the Constitutional court in Cairo Thursday threw rocks at troops and state security forces guarding the building, which was sealed off by rolls of barbed wire.
In the equally eagerly awaited decision on the presidential race, the court rejected a law barring anyone who held a senior post under Mubarak from running for public office.
Shafiq is facing Mursi in the runoff on June 16 and 17.
The election has polarized the country. Many view Shafiq as a symbol of Mubarak's authoritarian rule, while others fear Mursi will try to impose an Islamist agenda.
Mursi was first with 24.8 percent of the vote in the first round last month. Shafiq was second with 23.7 percent.
Shafiq welcomed the court rulings, saying an "era of political score settling has ended."
"The individualization of the law and the use of national statutes to achieve the goals of a single group against a person or another group are now gone forever," Shafiq said.
The rulings come one day after the Justice Ministry on June 13 announced a decision granting the country's military police and intelligence agents the right to arrest civilians.
The military's powers to arrest civilians had ended just weeks before, on May 31, when Egypt's decades-long emergency law expired.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and BBC