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In historic election, Egyptians cast votes for stability, Islam (+video)

Nearly a year and a half after the revolution that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians are getting to choose their president for the first time.

By Correspondent / May 23, 2012

An Egyptian man smiles as he waits in line to vote in the presidential election Wednesday, May 23, outside a polling station in Cairo. Nearly a year and a half after the revolution that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, millions of Egyptians lined up for hours outside polling stations.

Hasan Jamali/AP

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Cairo

Egyptians went to the polls today to choose their president for the first time in history, embarking on one of the most critical steps in Egypt’s transition to civilian government and democracy nearly 1-1/2 years after the revolution.

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Egyptians cast votes in historic election, nearly a year and a half after the revolution that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.

Voters flocked to polling stations throughout Cairo, with lines forming in many places as soon as the doors opened at 8 a.m. Many expressed hope that electing a civilian president would serve as a coda to the trying transition period and usher in a season in which Egyptians might begin to see the benefits, rather than the hardships, of the uprising.

In some districts, lines were shorter, and turnout appeared lower, than in the first round of parliamentary elections at the end of last year, when 59 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. Many voters may be waiting to vote in the evening, when the soaring temperatures cool, or tomorrow. So far, voting seemed to be going smoothly across Egypt, where about 50 million people are eligible to cast ballots. No major violations or violence have been reported.

Unlike the festive atmosphere that sometimes prevailed during parliamentary elections, voters in some districts of Cairo today displayed a more determined air, aware of the critical nature of this election and perhaps remembering the sacrifices that made it possible.

The interim military council that took over from Mubarak agreed to hold elections by July after massive protests against military rule in November, during which dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with police. Many still worry that the military will retain behind-the-scenes power after the election, which has turned into a contest between newly empowered Islamists and candidates connected to the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, who promise experience and stability.

Concerns about a religious state

“This is a good day, but the important thing is that we hope this will lead to more good days,” says Adel Mahrousi, a retired Ministry of Education employee who voted in the working-class district of Shubra. This election is the moment when Egypt will decide between two paths, he says. “The choice is between a democratic civil state, and a religious state.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party took nearly 50 percent of parliamentary seats, “failed in parliament,” he said. He is afraid that if the Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi wins and the party controls all branches of government, Egypt’s foreign relations will deteriorate, and the situation will not improve internally.

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