Egypt goes to poll to elect new president (Lead)

May 23rd, 2012 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Cairo, May 23 (IANS) Egyptians went to polls Wednesday morning to elect a new president after last year’s fall of Hosni Mubarak who ruled the country for three decades with a tough hand.

The polling stations opened at 8 a.m. across the country under tight security.

The elections would be the first since Mubarak was ousted following 18 days of demonstrations in Egypta in February 2011. He assumed the presidency in October 1981, following the assassination of then president Anwar Sadat.

Mubarak is now facing a trial on charges of corruption and abuse of power, and premeditated murder of peaceful protestors. He may be sentenced to death if found guilty.

There were long queues in front of many polling stations in Cairo since early morning.

Ahmed Fatah, a middle-aged Muslim who came to a polling station at 6.30 a.m., told Xinhua that he had a high expectation from the election.

“I hope the new president can restore peace and stability in our life. Our economy has suffered from continuous chaos and violence. We want the new president to revive our economy, make our life easier and bring back the good reputation and great influence Egypt used to have before the revolution in international community,” said Fatah.

For Fatma Mohamed, who described herself as a 56-year-old housewife, choosing a president with her own vote was an exciting experience.

“I’m here with my husband. Frankly, this is the second time I cast a vote in my whole life after the last parliamentary elections,” said Fatma.

There are about 50 million eligible voters, who will elect one from 12 presidential candidates. Top hopefuls include former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, Islamist Aboul Fotouh, Freedom and Justice Party chairman Mohamed Morsi and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.

Government employees have been given a day off for the voting.

To ensure the transparency and fairness of the elections, 14,500 judges and 65,000 public servants were deployed nationwide to monitor the process. Three foreign civil society organizations and 49 local ones were allowed to observe the event.

Former US president Jimmy Carter is also in Egypt to monitor the election.

The one-week voting for overseas Egyptians ended May 17, with the results yet to be announced.

The ruling military council has vowed to ensure free and fair elections and urged citizens to participate in the poll processes.

Citizens’ participation would send a message to the world that the polls are conducted out of free will, said Major General Mohamed el-Assar, member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) Tuesday.

The general told reporters that people would accept the results and that the new president would meet their demands.

The run-off will be held in June. To win the election, a candidate is required to get over 50 percent of the votes.

The results of the presidential polls will be announced June 21.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that took over power from Mubarak is expected to transfer it to the new president by June 30, which marks the end of the transitional period.

Early this year, Egyptians elected a new parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and Salafist Nour Party occupy more than 70 percent of the total seats.

The competition for the presidency is mainly between Islamists and secular politicians.

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