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Cairo - Presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik welcomed court rulings that let him stay in Egypt's leadership race and void a parliamentary vote won by his Islamist rivals, saying on Thursday an “era of political score settling” was over.
Hundreds of supporters of the former military officer - the last prime minister of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak - danced, cheered and sang at his last rally in Cairo before a weekend presidential run-off vote.
Shafik's bid to succeed Mubarak overcame a major hurdle on Thursday after the country's highest court overruled a law passed by the Islamist-dominated parliament that would have barred top Mubarak-era figures from politics.
If it upheld the law, Shafik would have been kicked out.
The court also said some rules for an earlier legislative election violated the constitution and the head of the court said the parliament, dominated by the Islamist party of Shafik's presidential rival Mohamed Morsy, must now be dissolved.
Shafik looked like an outsider when the election race began in May, sometimes offering confused answers to questions from journalists. But his speech shortly after the court rulings suggested a belief the presidency was almost his.
“The message of this historic verdict is that the era of political score settling has ended,” said Shafik. “The constitutional court has confirmed my right to participate in the election and reinforced the legitimacy of this election.”
“Long live justice!” shouted the crowd.
Morsy won a first-round presidential vote last month and Shafik was second, knocking more moderate candidates out of this weekend's second round.
The idea of Shafik taking power angers many Egyptians who see him as a tool of the country's interim army rulers and the Mubarak old guard who would unravel the fragile democratic gains of last year's uprising begun by young revolutionaries.
Many of his supporters are scared of social and political turmoil since the uprising which has scared away foreign tourists and investors. They see Shafik, a former air force commander, as best placed to restore order.
Others, especially the large Coptic Christian minority, are wary of the experiment with Islamic rule that Morsy represents.
The crowd sang Egypt's national anthem and waved flags when Shafik arrived at the rally in a plush hotel in a Cairo suburb.
A pop group played before his speech where he promised to fix Egypt's problems, from the complaints of fishermen to restrictions on the press, poverty and a housing shortage.
In his final appeal to voters before the close of official campaigning on Friday, Shafik pledged to “address chaos and return stability” but also claimed the mantle of the uprising for himself, promising to bring its benefits to all Egyptians.
“The time has come for the revolution to turn into tangible reality,” he said, promising the young better schools and more jobs, telling them: “The security forces will never chase you”.
Shafik peppered his speech with excerpts from Islam's Qur’an and made a swipe at belligerent rhetoric by some Islamists, saying he would not drag Egypt into unnecessary wars.
In a nod to the supreme court's ruling that would dissolve parliament, Shafik said Egypt would have a parliament “that genuinely represents the different factions of Egypt”. - Reuters