May 25, 2013
Egyptians to pick president for first time
Egyptians vote on Wednesday for the first time to pick their president in a wide open election that 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.
"Of course I will vote. I want change. We can't stay in this messy situation for the rest of our lives," said Wael Azmy, an accountant, who has taken Wednesday off work to give him time to join the queues he expects to form outside polling stations.
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.
With none of the 12 candidates expected to secure more than half the votes to win outright in the first round on Wednesday and Thursday, a run-off between the top two is likely in June.
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.