Poster of Egypt presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy 370.
(photo credit: Nat Frank)
CAIRO - Egyptians began voting on Wednesday in the nation's first genuine presidential election that will pick the man to replace Hosni Mubarak who was ousted in a popular uprising last year.
Polling stations opened at 8 a.m., television reported. They will close at 8 p.m. With none of the 12 candidates bidding for Egypt's top job expected to win the first round outright, a second round is planned for mid-June.
The wide open election pits Islamists against men who served under deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.
The contest is a novelty for a nation where elections during the 30-year rule of a man some called "Pharaoh" were thinly attended rigmaroles in which the result was a foregone conclusion.
This time Egypt's 50 million eligible voters are expected to turn out in force to determine who will lead the country after the generals who have overseen a transition marred by violence, protests and political deadlock formally hand over by July 1.
Voters have been blitzed by three weeks of official campaigning, which ended on Sunday. Egypt held its first US-style televised presidential debate. Newspapers have carried interviews and campaign adverts. Banners and posters festoon the streets.
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It will be the first time that ordinary Egyptians, ruled down the centuries by pharaohs, sultans, kings and military officers, will have a genuine chance to choose their leader.
But whoever wins faces a huge task to deliver changes that Egyptians expect to relieve a grim economic outlook. The military that was a pillar of Mubarak's rule is likely to remain a powerful political force for years.Election results worry West, Israel, Gulf states
The army, whose senior ranks also have extensive commercial interests, insists it does not want to hang onto power.
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