Egypt makes stark choice for president
By Yasmine Saleh and Marwa Awad
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptians voted on Saturday in the first free presidential election in their history to make what many find an unpalatable choice between a military man who served deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak and an Islamist who says he is running for God.
Reeling from a court order two days ago to dissolve a new parliament dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, many question whether generals who pushed aside fellow officer Mubarak last year to appease the pro-democracy protests of the Arab Spring will honor a vow to relinquish power by July 1 to whoever wins.
"Both are useless but we must choose one of them unfortunately," said Hassan el-Shafie, 33, in Mansoura, north of Cairo, exasperated like many who picked centrists in last month's first round and now face a choice between two extremes.
With neither a parliament nor a new constitution in place to define the president's powers, the outcome from Saturday and Sunday's run-off will still leave 82 million Egyptians, foreign investors and allies in the United States and Europe unsure about what kind of state the most populous Arab nation will be.
Both contenders may herald further turbulence. An Islamist president will face a mistrustful army, while a victory by a Mubarak-era general will rile the revolutionaries on the street.
There are no reliable opinion polls for guidance, but former air force commander Ahmed Shafik, 70, Mubarak's prime minister in the last days of his rule, surged from outsider status and into the run-off. He has kept up the momentum by playing on fears about rule by an Islamist and the chaos that might bring.
His rival, the Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsy, paints himself as the last revolutionary in the race. He can be sure of solid support from the group's network of disciplined supporters built up over decades. But he has struggled to broaden his appeal.
A result may emerge within hours of polls closing on Sunday. Turnout in the first round last month was only 46 percent. An election official said Saturday's voting had been steady. Continued...