Egyptians are voting in a two-day run-off election to choose their first freely elected president. Mohammed Mursi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, is up against Ahmed Shafiq, former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister. The ruling generals have vowed to hand over power to the winner by 30 June. But correspondents say many who took part in last year’s revolution find the choice uninspiring and some have called for a boycott or spoiled ballots.
As polls opened on Saturday morning, there was little sign of the long queues or enthusiasm that characterised the first round, or the parliamentary polls which took place between November and January.
“The revolution was stolen from us,” merchant Nabil Abdul Fatah told the Associated Press outside a polling station in Cairo’s Imbaba district.
He said he planned to vote for Mr Shafiq.
“We can easily get rid of him if we want to, but not the Brotherhood, which will cling to power.”
The build-up to this weekend’s run-off has been marred by a Supreme Constitutional Court decision that parliament had to be dissolved.
On Thursday, a panel of judges – appointed by Mr Mubarak – ruled that the law governing Egypt’s first democratic elections in more than six decades was unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents.
Mr Mursi’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won about 100 of its 235 seats in the People’s Assembly by running candidates for individual seats. The ultraconservative Salafist Nour party also enjoyed similar success in seats designated for independents.
If parliament is dissolved swiftly by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), whoever wins this weekend’s presidential run-off could take office without the oversight of a sitting parliament, and without a permanent constitution to define his powers or duties.
A 100-member assembly appointed by parliament earlier this week to draft the new constitution may also be dissolved.
Islamist, liberals and scholars denounced the ruling as a “coup”, saying they feared the ruling generals would take back legislative power.
“This series of measures shows that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the head of the counter-revolution, is adamant to bring back the old regime and the presidential elections are merely a show,” six parties and movements said in a joint statement.
The BBC’s Lyse Doucet in Cairo says the ruling generals insist they are moving Egypt towards civilian rule.
And with some newly restored powers of arrest and interrogation, they are warning any effort to disrupt the run-off vote will be dealt with firmly, our correspondent adds.
On Wednesday, the justice ministry granted soldiers the right to arrest civilians for trial in military courts until the ratification of a new constitution.
On Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood vowed to win the presidency despite the signs of opposition within both the military and judiciary, which is overseeing the vote.
“Isolate the representative of the former regime through the ballot box,” said a statement referring to Mr Shafiq, who also served as head of the air force and minister of aviation during Mr Mubarak’s 29 years in power.
The Brotherhood warned that the progress made since the president was forced to step down was being “wiped out and overturned”.
Mr Mursi meanwhile sought to reassure the military and its supporters within the electorate that he would work closely with the generals.
“As president, they will be in my heart and will get my attention… they will never do anything to harm the nation,” he said.
His opponent meanwhile told a rally that the court rulings were “historic” and that the “era of political score-settling” had ended.
On Friday, Mr Shafiq promised to “address chaos and return stability”.
He came second in last month’s first round, in which turnout among the 52 million eligible voters was only 46%. Official results gave Mr Mursi 24.8% and Mr Shafiq 23.7%.
The 13,000 polling stations, spread across Egypt’s 27 governorates, are due to open on Saturday and Sunday at 08:00 (06:00 GMT) and close at 20:00 (18:00 GMT), but voting is likely to be extended on both days.
Security will be tight, with some 400,000 soldiers and police deployed on the streets.
Final results from the Higher Presidential Election Commission (HPEC) are due by 21 June, but are expected to arrive much earlier. Partial results from the first round were declared within 24 hours.EGYPT STARTS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION RUN-OFF
Source: BBC News