Egypt's transition to democracy was thrown into further disarray on Friday after its top court ordered parliament dissolved and allowed a disputed candidate to remain in a divisive presidential runoff.
Activists and political figures have described the rulings as the final phase of a military coup that takes the transition back to square one.
"Back to where you were," read a huge red headline in the independent daily Al-Shorouk.
The Supreme Constitutional Court on Thursday ruled certain articles in the law governing parliamentary elections to be invalid, thus annulling the Islamist-led house.
It also ruled as unconstitutional the political isolation law which bars senior members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's regime and top members of his now-dissolved party from running for public office for 10 years.
The legislation had threatened to disqualify Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, who is to face the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Mursi in a presidential election runoff on Saturday and Sunday.
Egyptian parties and activists accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of staging a "counter-revolution" after a series of measures that consolidated its power ahead of the polls.
The court rulings came a day after a decision by the justice ministry to grant army personnel the right to arrest civilians after that power was lifted when the decades-old state of emergency expired on May 31.
"This series of measures shows that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the head of the counter-revolution, is adamant to bring back the old regime and the presidential elections are merely a show," six parties and movements said in a joint statement.
Since February 2011, when Mubarak was ousted and the military took power, a series of steps had been taken to "abort the revolution" including the acquittal of Mubarak's two sons in corruption cases and the freeing of six police commanders accused of killing protesters during the uprising.
The groups including the Current Party, the National Front for Justice and Democracy, and the Coalition of Revolution Youth have called on Mursi to withdraw from the presidential runoff "which is just a show that legitimises the presence of SCAF at the head of authority in Egypt".