Egyptians went to the polls Wednesday to choose their first freely elected president in a vote that could end 15 chaotic months of military rule and define the future of political Islam. It was a new climax in a cascade of scenes that would have been unthinkable just two years ago, when election days meant that state television would film former President Hosni Mubarak walking a red carpet to his special polling place in a predictably fraudulent plebiscite. But on Wednesday, millions of Egyptians waited patiently in long lines, often holding scraps of cardboard against the desert sun, and debated with their neighbors over which of the five leading contenders most deserved their vote. “It is like honey to my heart,” said Mohamed Mustafa Seif, 36, an accountant voting in downtown Cairo. “For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a role to play. My vote could possibly make a difference.”
With a fluid and shifting field, no reliable polls, and a potential runoff next month, the outcome was impossible to predict. Two rival Islamists, two former Mubarak ministers, and a Nasserite socialist are all in the running. “It is amazing; all the factions are represented,” said Rafik Yousseff, 52, an engineer and Christian who said he planned to vote for Amr Moussa, a secular-minded former foreign minister, but welcome the Islamists participation. “Rise up, Egyptians!” declared the headline of the largest privately owned newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm. “Egypt of the revolution today chooses the first elected president of the ‘Second Republic.’ ”
Lines outside of polling places stretched for hours in the morning, thinned in the afternoon heat, and grew in the evening, with even longer lines reported in rural districts as in the big cities. Although there were sporadic allegations of campaign violations — young activists were caught distributing fliers attacking the former Mubarak government candidates, two police officers were arrested for impermissibly supporting one of them, Ahmed Shafik — the vote was orderly and peaceful. In a news conference, election authorities appeared in far better control of the process than during recent parliamentary elections; in one case, they quickly dispatched four buses to resolve a polling place mix-up in a small town of Upper Egypt. At some polling places, riot police guarding standing guard cheerfully posed for pictures, savoring the historic moment. Army vehicles had cruised capitol Tuesday with bullhorns, urging all to vote.
Full Article: Egyptians Vote in Presidential Poll – NYTimes.com.