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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.

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He voted for Amr Moussa, a foreign minister under former president Hosni Mubarak who he says has the experience needed to pull Egypt out of chaos and instability.

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“I want someone who can grasp the country from the first day, and bring it to peace and security,” he says. Mr. Moussa “is the best one in this period. Maybe after this, in the next election, there will be a better one.”

A vote for Islamists – unthinkable several years ago

But others see Mr. Morsi as the man who will lead Egypt to better days. “The presidency is a big responsibility,” says an elderly voter who gave his name as Ismail. “We want an Islamic president who can fulfill the needs of the people. One who doesn’t know Islam won’t know how to guide the country.”

Ismail says he could never have imagined, several years ago, that he would vote for a member of the Muslim Brotherhood for president. The group was repressed under Mubarak, who often jailed its leaders. Now both Morsi and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former leader of the Brotherhood who was expelled last year, both have a shot at the presidency.

In Zeitoun, a run-down, working-class district with a mixed population of Christians and Muslims, women debate which candidates to support as they stand in line. A voter who gives her name as Asmaa says she will vote for Morsi. She wears the niqab, a veil that covers the face, as she waits in line under the intense sun. Her most important criteria is which candidate would implement sharia, or Islamic law.

“Morsi is Islamic; he will implement sharia,” she says. Hagar, who stood in line next to her, said it was difficult to come to a decision, but she had recently decided she would also vote for Morsi. “He’s following God’s way,” she says.

Fouzia Atteya, standing in front of them both, butts in. “Don’t say that he’s God’s candidate!” she admonishes. “Each person should choose the candidate he considers the best. We all obey God. We should decide based on their programs.”

Nearby, Nagwa Abdel Meseeh, a Christian, stands under graffiti supporting Dr. Aboul Fotouh on the wall of the school-turned-polling station. Her priorities in choosing a candidate are security and peace. She plans to vote for Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister. She says he will restore stability to Egypt.

Inside the polling station, voting is calm and orderly. Voters receive a rectangular ballot with 13 candidates listed. Beside each name is the candidate’s symbol and his picture. The transparent ballot box, its lid secured by plastic ties, is about half full. After dropping their ballots in the box, voters dip a finger into a jar full of ink. A woman wearing the niqab and black gloves tugs off one glove to ink her finger – then holds it up, showing off the purple stain.

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