Egyptians Line Up for Their First Free Presidential Election

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Egyptians are patiently contending with long lines and equally long ballots to cast their votes in the first meaningful presidential election in the nation's history. The vote will last two full days and features 13 candidates all vying to replace Hosni Mubarak, who was forced from power after the popular uprising more than 15 months ago. The vote has mostly been peaceful, but there are reports now of a policeman being shot and killed outside a Cairo polling station.

The run-up to the elections saw heated campaigning from Egypt's various factions, led mainly by the largest and most influential parties, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Al-Nour Party, which is Salafist. Although the campaigns have been contentious (with some parties simply handing out food to win support) and some of the candidates have deep ties to the Mubarak regime, the country was swept up in the process and many older Egyptians seem thrilled just to be casting a ballot that might actually mean something.

Meanwhile, some young people are boycotting the election over concerns that the new president will still be beholden to or overpowered by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military leadership that has ruled the country since Mubarak's departure. The SCAF has promised to turn over power quickly, but despite holding legislative and presidential elections the council has not even written a new constitution that would define what the powers of the new office holder would be. If no one candidates achieve a 50 percent majority, a run-off will be held next month and SCAF has promised to install a president by the end of June.

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The frustrating transition has led to some calls for a "second revolution," but if Egyptians can merely create an election result that is considered fair and valid that will be a major step forward for a country that has never seen a true, contested vote for president. Those under the age of 30 have never known a president other than Mubarak, which is why a peaceful, democratic transition could cement Egypt's as the first truly successful revolution of the Arab Spring.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.