Polls Open for Egypt’s Historic Presidential Election

Posted May 23rd, 2012 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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Millions of Egyptians stood in long lines Wednesday to cast ballots in the first presidential election after President Hosni Mubarak's resigned last year amid massive protests.

The buildup to the contentious election has largely pitted candidates representing the old guard tied to Mr. Mubarak against Islamists trying to form new coalitions. In all, 12 candidates are on the ballot. The voting will stretch over two days.

VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott found large crowds at Cairo polling stations.

“People started to line up even before the polls opened at eight o'clock and then in the time after that, they have just seemed to get longer and longer. People are very excited about taking part.”

About 50 million Egyptians are eligible to vote. Among them is Gihad Amr, who says he does not know what to expect.

“I feel very anxious because I don't know whether the outcome will be good or bad. I hope it is a good outcome but yet you see feel anxiety that it might turn wrong or it might turn right.”

With large demonstrations taking place in the weeks before the elections, there have been fears of violence.

News organizations say a police officer was shot and killed outside of a Cairo polling station during a gunfight between supporters of two presidential candidates.

In the run up to the voting, former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa, a liberal who has been a public figure for years, was reportedly leading the pack.

But recent polls have shown the rise of Ahmed Shafiq, a former Air Force commander and Mr. Mubarak's last prime minister, who has the support of Egypt's powerful military that has ruled the country in the interim period.

Mohamed Morsi represents Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist faction. He entered the race late but has benefited from the group's effective political machine, which has campaigned door-to-door.

A more moderate Islamist candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, is also on the ballot.

A runoff is scheduled for June 16-17 between the two top finishers. The winner will be announced June 21.

A victory for either of the secularist candidates would mark a significant turn from parliamentary elections just six months ago when more than 70 percent of voters cast ballots for Islamist parties.