Voting in Egypt enters second day

2012-05-24 07:56
Cairo - Egyptians vote on Thursday in the second day of a gripping presidential election in which candidates are pitting stability against the ideals of the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's rule.

Polls are scheduled to open again at 08:00 for voters to choose among 12 candidates, with the front runners divided between Islamists who say they will champion the uprising's goals and Mubarak-era ministers.

Voting in 13 000 polling stations takes place over two days in order to accommodate more than 50 million eligible voters.

On Wednesday, after a slow start, cooler evening temperatures and the end of the work day prompted a surge in voters, who wound their way through streets outside polling stations across the country.

Two of the candidates are expected to go into June run offs after the May 23 and 24 vote, with pollsters saying the number of undecided voters makes the result of the first round extremely difficult to predict.

After decades of pre-determined results, for the first time, the outcome of the vote in the Arab world's most populous nation is wide open.

The next president will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the uprising and its sometimes deadly aftermath, but his powers are yet to be defined by a new constitution.

Huge problem

Among the contenders is former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Mussa, who is seen as an experienced politician and diplomat. But like Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, he is accused of ties with the old regime.

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohammed Mursi, faces competition from Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a former member of the Islamist movement who portrays himself as a consensus choice with a wide range of support.

Several of the candidates broke an election committee period of silence during the polling to shore up their chances and attack others, with Shafiq warning of a "huge problem" if the Islamists get into power.

Pollsters say many of the undecided voters who say they will cast ballots are likely to make up their minds at the last minute or be swayed by the candidate who has the best network in mustering votes.

The election caps a roller-coaster transition, marked by political upheaval and deadly bloodshed, but which also witnessed democratic parliamentary elections that saw Islamist groups score a crushing victory.

Ballot boxes from Wednesday will be kept overnight in the stations, which election commission officials will seal with wax overnight and leave under military and police protection.

Results are expected on Sunday.

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