Egyptians Vote In Country's First Free Presidential Elections

Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: Updated: 23/05/2012 13:05

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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  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    Egyptian men talk as they wait to vote outside a polling station in Cairo on May 23, 2012, as polls opened in the country's historic presidential election, the first since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    Egyptian men wait to vote outside a polling station in Cairo on May 23, 2012, as polls opened in the country's historic presidential election, the first since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    Egyptians walk in front of an army vehicle , in Cairo on May 22, 2012, one day before the country's landmark presidential elections. A buzz of excitement swept through Cairo, a day before its first presidential election since an uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak, ushering in a tumultuous military-led transition.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    A man puts the finishing touches on graffiti picturing the morphed faces of Egyptian ousted president Hosni Mubarak (R) and military ruler Hussein Tantawi and presidential candidates Amr Mussa (C) and Ahmed Shafiq (L), near Cairo's central Tahrir square on May 22, 2012, one day before round one of the country's landmark presidential elections. The Arabic writing reads, 'I will never give you peace and you will not rule me for another day.'

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    An Egyptian policeman checks electoral lists outside a polling station in Cairo on May 23, 2012, as polls opened in the country's historic presidential election, the first since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    Egyptian men line-up outside a polling station in Cairo on May 23, 2012, as polls opened in the country's historic presidential election, the first since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    Egyptian men scramble to enter a polling station in Cairo on May 23, 2012, as polls opened in the country's historic presidential election, the first since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    Egyptian wait in line to vote at e a polling station in Cairo on May 23, 2012, as polls opened in the country's historic presidential elections.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    Egyptian voters search for their names on voters lists outside a polling station in Cairo on May 23, 2012, as polls opened in the country's historic presidential elections.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    An Egyptian policeman carries electoral booths into a polling station in the Coptic neighbourhood of Manshiyet Nasser in Cairo on May 22, 2012. A buzz of excitement swept through the Egyptian capital on the day before its first presidential election since an uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak and ushered in a tumultuous military-led transition.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    Egyptian workers carry bundles of waste paper past Egyptian policemen sitting on a van loaded with empty ballot boxes outside a polling station in the Coptic neighbourhood of Manshiyet Nasser in Cairo on May 22, 2012. A buzz of excitement swept through the Egyptian capital on the a day before its first presidential election since an uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak and ushered in a tumultuous military-led transition.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    An Egyptian policeman stacks notice boards and empty ballot boxes at a polling station in the Coptic neighbourhood of Manshiyet Nasser in Cairo on May 22, 2012. A buzz of excitement swept through the Egyptian capital on the day before its first presidential election since an uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak and ushered in a tumultuous military-led transition.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    Egyptian policemen unload notice boards and empty ballot boxes from a vehicle outside a polling station in the Coptic neighbourhood of Manshiyet Nasser in Cairo on May 22, 2012. A buzz of excitement swept through the Egyptian capital on May 22, a day before its first presidential election since an uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak and ushered in a tumultuous military-led transition.

  • Egyptian Elections 2012

    An Egyptian soldier carries a cardboard box containing voting ballots in the capital Cairo on May 22, 2012, a day before the first presidential election since an uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak. Around 50 million eligible voters are being called to choose Mubarak's successor on May 23 and May 24 with a run-off scheduled for next month should there be no outright winner.

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