May 24, 2012
Voting has resumed in Egypt in a historic presidential election that broadly pits Islamist candidates against secularists rooted in former President Hosni Mubarak’s old guard.
The government declared Thursday a holiday to give people more time to cast ballots.
But VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott says turnout in the Cairo area appears to be weaker Thursday, the second and final day of voting.
“Anecdotally, it seems a little bit lighter than yesterday. One polling place that we’d gone by yesterday morning at the same time had lines around the block. Today, just a handful of people were there,” she said. “It seems like a lot of people went yesterday so it could be expected that it would be lighter today.”
Election monitors said Wednesday’s polling was mostly peaceful as millions of Egyptians lined up to cast ballots in a vote that is expected to produce the country’s first freely elected civilian president after 60 years of military-backed leadership.
The vote comes 15 months after President Mubarak resigned amid massive protests.
In the runup to the election, Egypt’s unreliable polls fluctuated greatly, with four of the 12 candidates bouncing around the top spots.
The two secular front-runners are both veterans of Mubarak’s regime – former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and former foreign minister Amr Moussa.
The main Islamist contenders are Mohamed Morsi of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate whose inclusive platform has won him the support of some liberals, leftists and minority Christians.
As a dissident former Brotherhood leader, Aboul Fotouh has also won the backing of Egypt’s ultraconservative Salafis, whose candidates won a quarter of the votes in recent parliamentary elections.
Morsi entered the race late but has benefited from the Brotherhood’s powerful political machine. His victory would likely mean a greater emphasis on religion in government.
Aboul Fotouh argues that the Brotherhood should go back to its roots in preaching and charity and get out of party politics.
Both of their rivals, Moussa and Shafik, are campaigning as alternatives to Islamist domination, voices of experience and stability and the firm hands needed to blunt the lawlessness that has followed Mubarak’s ouster.
Shafik has the support of Egypt’s powerful military that has ruled the country in the 16 months since a popular revolt swept the former president from power.
A victory for one of the secularist candidates would mark a significant turn from parliamentary elections just six months ago when more than 70 percent of voters cast ballots for Islamist parties.
Preliminary first round results are not expected until Sunday.
A runoff is scheduled for June 16-17 between the two top finishers. The winner will be announced June 21.
Whoever wins faces massive challenges – the economy has collapsed as the key tourism industry dried up, crime has increased and labor strikes have proliferated.
This article first appeared on voanews.com