Egypt's highest court ruled on Thursday that the last prime minister to serve under Hosni Mubarak can stay in the presidential race and that a third of lawmakers in parliament were illegally elected.
In one of twin decisions, Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court allowed former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq to contest Saturday and Sunday's presidential runoff against the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohammed Morsi.
Egypt's highest court has also ordered the country's Islamist-dominated parliament dissolved, saying its election about six months ago was unconstitutional. The ruling means that new elections for the entire parliament will have to be held.
The court says in its explanation of the ruling, "the makeup of the entire chamber is illegal and, consequently, it does not legally stand."
The explanation was carried by Egypt's official news agency and confirmed to The Associated Press by one of the court's judges, Maher Sami Youssef.
The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists have the most to lose from a new vote. The Brotherhood won nearly half of parliament's seats and ultraconservatives known as Salafis won another 20 percent. Many of those seats were among those dedicated to independents.
The Brotherhood's popularity has dramatically declined in the six months since parliamentary elections were held. Morsi won only 25 percent of the votes in the first round of the presidential elections last month. Non-Islamists in a field of 13 candidates won more than 50 percent of the votes.
Hundreds of police and troops backed by armored vehicles set up a security ring around the court ahead of the rulings and scuffles broke out immediately after the rulings were issued between anti-Shafiq protesters and the security forces.
Earlier, in the court, Shafiq's lawyer Shawki el-Sayed denounced the so-called "Political Exclusion Law" that banned ex-regime leaders, saying it "smacks of a desire to exact revenge, which undermines the sanctity of the law. It encroaches on freedoms."
Islamist lawmaker Essam Sultan defended the so-called "political exclusion law," saying, "The revolution is in a state of self-defense. Parliament has a right to tailor legislation for one person."
Shafiq and Morsi finished as the top two vote-getters in last month's first round of the election. The two-man race has polarized the nation. The anti-Shafiq camp views him as an extension of Mubarak's authoritarian regime. The anti-Morsi camp fears he and the Brotherhood will inject more religion into government and curtail freedoms if he wins.
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