After weeks of fevered debate, speculation and argument, Egyptians went to the polls on Wednesday in the country’s first competitive presidential election, choosing among a dozen candidates spanning the nation’s secular and Islamist traditions after decades of authoritarian rule.
With the skies clear and the weather warm, long lines of people queued at polling stations to vote in an election cast as a watershed in their political history.
“Rise up, Egyptians,” proclaimed a full-page headline in the largest independent daily newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm. “ ‘Egypt of the revolution’ chooses today the first elected president for the ‘Second Republic.’ ”
In the run-up to the ballot, there have been no reliable opinion surveys, nor is there a permanent Constitution to set the president’s duties and powers. But the vote is widely seen as crucial in choosing a leader to influence Egypt’s course for decades to come.
About 50 million Egyptians are eligible to vote, and four or five of the candidates are seen as plausible contenders.
From the Islamist side, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh has campaigned as a relative liberal while Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood has offered a more conservative vision.
Two candidates held positions under President Hosni Mubarak, deposed 15 months ago as the Arab Spring began to stir revolt in many parts of the Arab world — the former prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, and Amr Moussa, a former diplomat and elder statesman.
A fifth candidate is the Nasserite, Hamdeen Sabbahy, a poet-turned-populist who is campaigning as a political descendant of the leader of the Egyptian revolution of 1952, President Gamal Abdel Nasser. . .