Egyptians vote for president

Egyptians have begun to cast their votes in elections on 23 May to determine which of the 12 presidential candidates will become their future leader.

It is the first time that ordinary Egyptians have had the chance to vote in fully-democratic presidential elections, which will see the transfer of power on 1 July from the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). 

The contest pits Islamists against secular candidates in a land-mark election described by Major General Mohamed el-Assar of the SCAF as "the last step in the transitional period". It comes 15 months after the fall of the regime of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and follows parliamentary elections held between November 2011 and January this year.

There are about 50 million eligible voters and turnout is expected to be high, with polling stations being overseen by 14,500 judges and 65,000 civil servants. Amid tight security, the polls opened at 08.00 and close at 20.00. All government employees have been given the day off work to facilitate their voting.

None of the candidates are expected to receive the over-50 per cent of the vote required to win, which will result in a run-off on 16-17 June. The front runners at present are former Arab League chief and one-time foreign minister, Amr Moussa; the independent Islamist Abdul Moniem Abul Fotouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader; Ahmed Shafiq a military commander and prime minister during the 2011 February revolution; Mohammed Mursi, the candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

Whoever wins will have to contend with an extremely fragile political situation, marred by continued violence and protests, as well as a grave economic outlook.

Until a new constitution is approved it is still not clear what powers the new president will have.