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AL MASRY AL YOUM (Egypt), BBC NEWS,AL JAZEERA

CAIRO - The Egyptian capital remained tense Friday as pro-democracy activists and Islamists called for massive protests after a pair of judicial rulings by the country's Supreme Constitutional Court have again put both civil order and longterm democracy at risk.

One day ahead of the opening of polls in a landmark presidential runoff election, some of Egypt's "Arab Spring" leaders called for a rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square dubbed: "Together against the smooth military coup," Al Jazeera reported.

Sixteen months after the fall of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's highest court confirmed on Thursday the legitamcy of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik's presidential candidacy, despite his direct ties to the Mubarak regime, and invalidated a third of the seats in the lower house of the Islamist-dominated Parliament installed earlier this year.

The rulings threaten to destabilize an already fragile political process that pits the two dominant forces in Egypt, the army and the Muslim Brotherhood, against each other.

The Constitutional Court ruled that some of the parliamentary election rules from the legislative race earlier this year were unconstitutional. Specifically, it ruled that the seats attributed through an individual, "first-past-the-post" system were invalid because candidates who were supposed to be independent were sometimes members of established parties, Reuters reported.

According to the Al Masry Al Youm's affiliate, Egypt Independent, the ruling effectively means that the entire lower house of the Egyptian Parliament will be dissolved, although what comes next is unclear.

The Court also ruled that former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik was eligible to run, striking down a "political isolation law" that would have barred him from the presidential race. Shafik, seen as the army's anointed candidate, is up against Mohamed Morsi, who represents the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The BBC reported that demonstrators gathered for the ruling and demanded that Shafik be disqualified, as opposition leaders warned that the rulings amounted to a "coup."

The secound round of the Egyptian presidential race will take place this coming weekend.

(This article was updated at 12:35 p.m. Paris time)

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

When Did Putin "Turn" Evil? That's Exactly The Wrong Question

Look back over the past two decades, and you'll see Vladimir Putin has always been the man revealed by the Ukraine invasion, an evil and sinister dictator. The Russian leader just managed to mask it, especially because so many chose to see him as a typically corrupt and greedy strongman who could be bribed or reasoned with.

Putin arrives for a ceremony to accept credentials from 24 foreign ambassadors at the Grand Kremlin Palace on Sept. 20.

Sergiy Gromenko*

-OpEd-

KYIV — The world knows that Vladimir Putin has power, money and mistresses. So why, ask some, wasn't that enough for him? Why did he have to go start another war?

At its heart, this is the wrong question to ask. For Putin, military expansion is not an adrenaline rush to feed into his existing life of luxury. On the contrary, the shedding of blood for the sake of holding power is his modus operandi, while the fruits of greed and corruption like the Putin Palace in Gelendzhik are more like a welcome bonus.

In the last year, we have kept hearing rhetorical questions like “why did Putin start this war at all, didn't he have enough of his own land?” or “he already has Gelendzhik to enjoy, why fight?” This line of thinking has resurfaced after missile strikes on Ukrainian power grids and dams, which was regarded by many as a simple demonstration of terrorism. Such acts are a manifestation of weakness, some ask, so is Putin ready to show himself weak?

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However, you will not arrive at the correct answer if the questions themselves are asked incorrectly. For decades, analysts in Russia, Ukraine, and the West have been under an illusion about the nature of the Russian president's personal dictatorship.

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