Second day of voting begins in Egypt

Second day of voting begins in Egypt

Egyptians are voting on the second day of a landmark presidential election that will produce a successor to long-time authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Voters lined up outside some polling centres, but the morning turnout was generally weaker than the previous day's, when lines formed outside polling centres more than an hour before they opened. The government has given employees the day off to bolster the turnout.

The two-day vote marks the end of decades of authoritarian rule, although concerns remained that the nation's military rulers who took over after Mubarak would try to retain influence.

Egyptians were hopeful as they waited patiently for their chance to cast a ballot in an unprecedentedly open race, with some 50 million eligible voters.

There are 13 candidates in the race, including Islamists, liberals and former regime figures.

No one is expected to win more than 50% of the vote in the first round yesterday and today, setting the stage for a run-off on June 16-17 between the top two finishers in the first round. A winner will be announced June 21.

The generals who took control after Mubarak was ousted in Egypt's 18-day uprising have promised to hand over power by July 1, repeatedly assuring critics that they have no wish to remain in charge.

There are fears, however, that they could retain significant powers on matters of national security and key foreign policies.

The landmark election, considered the freest and fairest in Egypt's history, is wide open. The reliability of polls is uncertain, and four of the 13 candidates have bounced around the top spots, although none of them have emerged as a clear front-runner.

The two leading secular contenders are both veterans of Mubarak's regime - former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and former foreign minister Amr Moussa.

The main Islamist candidates are Mohammed Morsi of the powerful and well-organised Muslim Brotherhood, and Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, a moderate Islamist whose inclusive platform has won him the support of some liberals, leftists and minority Christians.

An Islamist victory, particularly by Morsi, will likely mean a greater emphasis on religion in government.

His Muslim Brotherhood, which already dominates parliament, says it will not mimic Saudi Arabia and force women to wear veils or implement harsh punishments like amputations.

But it says it does want to implement a more moderate version of Islamic law, which liberals fear will mean limitations on many rights.


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