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Egypt's presidential vote begins


CAIRO, (Xinhua): Egyptians went to polls on Wednesday morning to elect a new president after the fall of ex-President Hosni Mubarak last year.

The polling stations opened at 8:00 a.m. (0600 GMT) across the country under tight security of police and troops. There were long queues in front of many polling stations in Cairo. The vote is expected to be the most free and fair of its kind in the past 60 years in Egypt.

There are about 50 million eligible voters, who will select one from 12 presidential candidates. Top hopefuls include former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, Islamist Aboul Fotouh, Freedom and Justice Party chairman Mohamed Morsi and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and left-wing Nasserist Hamdeen Sabahy.

Government employees have one day off for the voting. School classes were halted. Polling stations close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) for the two-day voting.

To ensure the transparency and fairness of the elections, 14, 500 judges and 65,000 public servants were deployed nationwide to monitor the process. Three foreign civil society organizations and 49 local ones were allowed to observe the event. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is also in Egypt to monitor the election with his Carter Center.

The one-week voting for overseas Egyptians ended on May 17, with the results yet to be announced.

The ruling military council has vowed to ensure free and fair elections and urged citizens to participate.

Citizens' participation would send a message to the world that the polls are conducted in free will, said Major General Mohamed el-Assar, member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on Tuesday.

The general told reporters that people would accept the results and that the new president would meet their demands.

Analysts say it is unlikely to have a clear winner in the first round as votes will much divided among popular candidates. The run- off will be held in June. To win the election requires a candidate to win over 50 percent of the votes.

The results of the presidential polls will be announced on June 21. The SCAF, who took over power from Mubarak, is expected to transfer power to the new president by June 30, which marks the end of the transitional period.

As the standoff about the constituent assembly remains, the new president's power is not clear.

Early this year, Egyptians elected a new parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and Salafist Nour Party occupy more than 70 percent of its seats.

The competition for the presidency is mainly between Islamists and secular politicians.

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