Rahm Emanuel leads pre-election polls, bolstered by his high profile and deep pockets [GALLO/GETTY]

Rahm Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff, has been cleared by the Illinois High Court to run for mayor of Chicago.

The state supreme court ruled unanimously in Emanuel's favour, saying an earlier appeals court decision that he did not fulfill residency requirements was "without any foundation in Illinois law", in a ruling on Thursday.

"As I said from the beginning, I think the voters deserve the right to make the choice of who should be mayor," Emanuel said, shortly after getting word of the decision.

Surprise decision

The surprise decision to have the name of the former aide to US president Barack Obama removed from the ballot threw the mayoral race into disarray when it came out, with less than a month to go before polls open.

Emanuel's lawyers  appealed the decision, prompting the Illinois High Court ruling.

"I have no doubt that we will in the end prevail at this effort. This is just one turn in the road,'' Emanuel said.

He said the "people of the city of Chicago deserve the right to make the decision on who they want to be their next mayor."

Emanuel's rivals, who until now had largely been overshadowed by his high profile and deep pockets, had sought to take advantage of the threat to his candidacy, asking voters to consider their campaigns.

Early voting in the poll began on January 31.

The residency questions have dogged Emanuel ever since he announced his candidacy last autumn.

Those challenging Emanuel have argued that he does not meet the one-year residency requirement because he rented out his Chicago home and moved his family to Washington DC to work for the US president for nearly two years.

Emanuel has said he always intended to return to Chicago and was only living in Washington at the request of Barack Obama.

He moved back to Chicago in October after he quit working for Obama to campaign full-time for mayor.

Emanuel is one of several candidates vying to replace Richard Daley, the incumbent mayor who has not sought a seventh term.

A Chicago Tribune/WGN poll also released last week showed Emanuel with the support of 44 per cent of those surveyed.

Source: Agencies