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Egyptians Vote In Country's First Free Presidential Elections

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Egyptians are voting in their first free election on Wednesday | PA

Egyptians are voting in the country’s first free presidential elections, 15 months after Hosni Murbarak's stranglehold on the country was dissolved during the Arab Spring.

Some 150,000 soldiers were deployed around the country on Wednesday to allow the ruling military council to deliver on their promise of a fair vote.

In a landmark moment for citizens, none will know the outcome of the vote until the polls are closed and ballot papers are counted - something never experienced before by Egyptians used to living under Mubarak's dictatorship.

"There was never any point voting before. Mubarak was the only candidate who mattered and you knew he was going to win" voter Ahmed al-Magour told the Guardian.

There are 13 candidates, with Mubarak’s old ministers pitted against Islamists and secular candidates.

However the main four front runners are considered to be relatively conservative. They include Mohammed Mursi, leader of Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and Amr Moussa, former Secretary-General of the Arab League, who served under Mubarak for ten years.

One Egyptian family, divided over the candidates standing for elections, expressed their worries over voting for a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"You get the feeling that they're coming back for revenge," Egyptian Aleya Hamdy told Al Jazeera.

Amr Moussa is given the nickname 'felool', a derogatory term meaning 'remnants' and applied to those who worked under the old regime.

However the emotional impact of the free choice was witnessed on the streets of Cairo on Wednesday.

Speaking to Associated Press, Medhat Ibrahim, who suffers from cancer, says: "I can die in a matter of months, so I came for my children, so they can live."

However the violent clashes that followed the collapse of the regime 15 months ago means the new president faces significant challenges to create the stability Egyptians crave.

Recent incidents of violent crime and lawlessness are at the top of Egyptian minds, reminding voters of their overwhelming desire for security.

The capital saw bloodshed only last week after an unidentified mob attacked a group of Islamist protesters camping outside the Ministry of Defence in Cairo. More than 150 people were injured over 12 hours of sustained violence.

Since the revolution there have been "all sorts of reports of kidnappings, car jackings, home invasions - the kind of violence this country was never used to" reports Al Jazeera.

polling station

Military police guard a polling station in Cairo

Egypt still doesn't have a constitution, prompting fears that the new leader may grapple with the powers of the military. Despite this, optimism was apparent as millions reportedly turned out to vote.

"It's a moment when you believe that we are turning a page," human rights activist Gassar Abdel-Razek told the Guardian.

The main candidates are listed below:

Amr Moussa: Formerly the Arab League secretary general and Egypt's foreign minister, Moussa is the main secular candidate in the election. Despite his links to the old regime he has attempted to distance himself from Hosni Mubarak.

Ahmed Shafiq: Before briefly serving as Egypt's last prime minister, at the end of Mubarak's regime in March 2011, Shafiq had always been seen as an opposition voice inside the government. He was the minister of civil aviation for nine years.

Husam Khayrallah: Democratic Peace Party candidate, a former military official and a face of the old regime

Abdallah al-Ashal: A professor at the American University in Cairo, and Mubarak's former Assistant Foreign Minister

Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh: A moderate former-Muslim Brotherhood candidate, who was suspended from the group after announcing his campaign, he has pledged to increase the country's education and scientific endeavours, and promote investment. He has won support from hardline Islamists and moderates who say he could defuse the country's religious conflict.

Mohammad Mursi: As the leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, part of the Muslim Brotherhood, he has said his rule would be based on Islam but would not be a theocracy.

Muhammad Salim al-Awwa: Islamit candidate who says his campaign is founded on combatting poverty

Hamdin Sabbahi: Nationalist founder of the Al-Karamah Party who uses strong anti-Israeli rhetoric in his speeches.

Khalid Ali: The youngest candidate, a left-wing activist and lawyer and a hero for many of Egypt's young people.

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