Egyptians were voting yesterday on the second day of a gripping presidential election in which candidates are pitting stability against the ideals of the uprising that ended former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
Small lines formed outside polling stations after they opened at 8am, with voting expected to gain momentum during the day after authorities declared yesterday a public holiday to allow public sector employees to cast their ballots.
At a school in the upmarket Cairo neighborhood of Heliopolis, women braved the heat yesterday to stand in line and vote.
“I’m very happy because we’ll be choosing our president. I came to vote last night, but it was too crowded, so I’m back,” Dina al-Badri, 26, said. “I chose my candidate a while ago based on his program, but everyone in my family is voting for someone else.”
About 50 million eligible voters have been called to choose among 12 candidates, with the frontrunners divided between Islamists who say they will champion the uprising’s goals and Mubarak-era ministers.
The election seals a tumultuous military-led transition from autocratic rule marked by political upheaval and bloodshed.
On Wednesday, after a slow start, cooler evening temperatures and the end of the workday prompted a surge in voters, who wound their way through streets outside polling stations across the country.
Two of the candidates are expected to go into run-offs next month, with pollsters saying the number of undecided voters makes the result of the first round extremely difficult to predict.
After decades of pre-determined results, for the first time the outcome of the vote in the Arab world’s most populous nation is wide open.
Among the contenders is former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Mussa, who is seen as an experienced politician and diplomat. However, like Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, he is accused of ties with the old regime.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Mursi, faces competition from Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a former member of the Islamist movement who portrays himself as a consensus choice with a wide range of support.
Pollsters say many of the voters who say they will cast ballots, but are undecided, are likely to make up their minds at the last minute or be swayed by the candidate who has the best network in mustering votes.
Ballot boxes from Wednesday were kept overnight in polling stations after being sealed with wax by election commission officials, and left under military and police protection.
The results are expected on Sunday.