Egypt votes in final day of presidential election

Posted at 06/17/12 10:02 AM

CAIRO - Egyptians vote Sunday in the second and last day of a highly divisive run-off presidential election between an Islamist once jailed by Hosni Mubarak and the ousted leader's last prime minister.

As polls closed on the first day of voting, the Islamists who dominate parliament and support candidate Mohammed Mursi were set on a confrontation path with the ruling military after it ordered the house disbanded.

The move throws Egypt's already tumultuous transition after Mubarak's ouster last year into further disarray with the new president expected to take office without a parliament and without a constitution.

Former air force chief Ahmed Shafiq, who served as Mubarak's premier in the last days of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising, is vying for the top job against the Muslim Brotherhood's Mursi.

The race has polarised the nation, dividing those who fear a return to the old regime under Shafiq from others who want to keep religion out of politics and fear the Brotherhood would stifle personal freedoms.

Polls open at 0600 GMT (8:00 am) Sunday for the second day of the two day run-off and are scheduled to close at 1800 GMT as police and troops deploy nationwide.

The new president will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011.

The election comes against the backdrop of a series of steps that have consolidated the ruling military's power, infuriating activists and boosting the boycott movement.

On Thursday, the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled certain articles in the law governing parliamentary elections to be invalid, thus annulling the Islamist-led house.

The Brotherhood won 47 percent of the body's seats in a drawn-out process between November last year and February.

That, in addition to a recent justice ministry decision granting army personnel the right to arrest civilians, is proof of the army's plans to anchor itself in power, activists say.

They accuse the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power when Mubarak was ousted, of staging a "counter-revolution."

"This series of measures shows that the SCAF, 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 statement.

The military says it does not want to stay in charge and promises to hand power to the elected president by the end of the month.

On Saturday it notified parliament it has been dissolved and banned its members from entering the house, a move swiftly rejected by the Islamists.

Parliament received a notice saying that Egypt's ruling generals had decided "to consider parliament dissolved," the official MENA news agency reported.

"Constant threats to dissolve parliament, elected with the will of 30 million Egyptians, confirm the military council's desire to monopolise power," the Brotherhood's political arm, the FJP, said in a statement.

"Dissolving the elected parliament must go to a fair referendum," it added.

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