Optimism fades for Egyptian consulting market 

Consultants will have to wait and see whether Egypt blossoms into the kind of market Iraq has been for the industry.

Until Thursday, optimism had been quietly building among international political consultants that Egypt could offer the kind of opportunities that Iraq did after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"The fact that Egyptians were able to hold this election within fifteen months of the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak is a positive sign and indicates the willingness of the population to accept a democratic process," consultant Tyler Harber wrote in C&E recently. "More importantly, it shows the country has embraced modern political campaigns."

Those hopes, stoked by the success of the May presidential vote and last year's parliamentary elections, came crashing down Thursday. Egypt's supreme court ruled the parliamentary vote "unconstitutional" and called for the lower house of parliament to be dissolved.

The court had been asked to hear the case because some seats in the People's Assembly were contested on a proportional list system, while others were in a first-past-the-post format.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won the largest share of seats in the lower chamber in the November 2011-January 2012 vote and holds many of the seats that were awarded in the "unconstitutional" format. 

All this is happening as the second round of voting in the presidential election was set for June 16-17. That contest, between Mohamed Morsi, of the Freedom and Justice Party, and Ahmed Shafiq, who was Mubarak's last prime minister, is still expected to go ahead. But the political turmoil resulting from the court decision could worsen.

The ruling has stoked fears that the military wants to increase its power on account of the electoral success of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to reports. And at least on a temporary basis, the military has done just that.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has controlled the country since Mubarak's ouster in February 2011, announced in the wake of the ruling that it now has full legislative power, according to CNN.

Even before the latest news, the Muslim Brotherhood hinted at an inevitable conflict with the military.

"They need to have some guarantees, but they first have to step down," a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party recently told The New Yorker. "There is no other option."

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