Egyptians cast final presidential votes

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A voter casts her vote at a polling station in Cairo on 17 June 2012. (Photo: Reuters – Suhaib Salem)

Published Sunday, June 17, 2012

Egyptians were voting on Sunday in the second and last day of a highly divisive run-off presidential election between an Islamist once jailed by Hosni Mubarak and the ousted leader's last prime minister.

Former air force chief Ahmed Shafik, who served as ex-president Mubarak's prime minister in the last days of the uprising that toppled him, is vying for the top job against Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi.

Polling stations opened at 0600 GMT with small queues forming outside some, an AFP photographer said.

The election comes against a backdrop of legal and political chaos, with the Muslim Brotherhood set on a confrontation path with the ruling military after it demanded the Islamist-led parliament be dissolved.

The move throws Egypt's already tumultuous transition after Mubarak's ouster last year into further disarray with the new president expected to take office without a parliament and without a constitution.

"The new president will head to the presidential palace amid a terrifying legal and constitutional vacuum," wrote political analyst Hassan Nafea in the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The race has polarized the nation, dividing those who fear a return to the old regime under Shafik from others who want to keep religion out of politics and fear the Brotherhood would stifle personal freedoms.

The new president will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011.

The election comes against the backdrop of a series of steps that have consolidated the power of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), infuriating activists and boosting the boycott movement.

On Thursday, the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled certain articles in the law governing parliamentary elections to be invalid, thus annulling the Islamist-led house.

It also invalidated a law that had threatened to bar Shafik from the presidential race.

That, in addition to a recent justice ministry decision granting the army the right to arrest civilians, is proof of the military's plans to cement itself in power, analysts believe.

"A Shafik victory will not only guarantee the SCAF has one of its men in the highest position of executive power, it will also give it an influential role in building the other political institutions of the new regime," Nafea said.

Activists accuse the SCAF, which took power when Mubarak was ousted, of staging a "counter-revolution."

"This series of measures shows that the SCAF, which heads the counter-revolution, is determined to bring back the old regime and that the presidential elections are merely a show," six parties and movements said in a statement.

The military says it does not want to stay in charge and promises to hand power to the newly elected president by the end of the month.

On Saturday the military notified parliament it has been dissolved and banned its members from entering the house, a move swiftly rejected by the Islamists.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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