An Egyptian court on Tuesday ordered the dissolution of more than 1,750 municipal councils, seen as one of the last vestiges of Hosni Mubarak's rule.
The administrative court decision, announced by presiding judge Kamal el-Lamei, meets a major demand of the protest movement that drove Mubarak from the presidency in an 18-day uprising early this year.
The local councils, with over 50,000 seats filled by elections widely viewed as rigged, were a backbone of support for Mubarak's ruling party. They became particularly important after 2005 constitutional amendments required presidential candidates to obtain support from a quota of local council officials, as well as from national parliament members. Critics saw this as a stepping stone for Mubarak's son, Gamal, to succeed his father in office.
The court decision can still be appealed, but popular opposition may make it difficult for Egypt's current military rulers to challenge it.
Hamdi el-Fakharani, an engineer who filed the court case against the councils, said 97 percent of council members belonged to Mubarak's now-dissolved National Democratic Party.
"They had already begun campaigning, using municipal services to influence people in favor of the party's comeback and saying the revolution has negatively impacted the economy," he said.
He said he was joined in the complaint by 10 independent council members who attested to council corruption.
The dismissal of all council members will leave Egypt's municipalities under the control of unelected local executives and provincial officials, until new councils are elected.
A major rally is planned next week to, among other things, show support for dissolving the local bodies' membership. Activists say the councils, criticized as corrupt and flush with government funds, could help the campaigns of supporters of the former regime in parliamentary elections, scheduled for September.
"This is, of course, an important decision. If we are having parliamentary elections, these municipal councils were set to play a big role," said Hafez Abu Saada, a human rights lawyer who monitored and criticized the councils' 2008 elections.