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Clashes as Egypt goes to the polls for a second day

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Women wait outside a polling station during presidential elections in Cairo. Photo: Reuters

Women wait outside a polling station during presidential elections in Cairo. Photo: Reuters

Women wait outside a polling station during presidential elections in Cairo. Photo: Reuters

Millions of Egyptians, choosing their leader freely for the first time in their history, were voting for the second consecutive day yesterday, in a fraught contest between Islamists and former officials of President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled last year.

After six decades under authoritarian, military-backed rule, Egypt's 50 million eligible voters may entrust the most populous Arab nation to an Islamist president for the next four years, alongside the Islamist-led parliament they elected earlier.

But secular figures like ex-Arab League chief Amr Moussa (75) and Mubarak's last premier Ahmed Shafiq (70) are in with a chance, appealing to Egyptians wary of radical change.

If no one wins more than half the votes needed for outright victory, the top two candidates will contest a June 16 and 17 run-off.

With two days of voting in the first round almost over, Egyptians seemed increasingly polarised between those determined to avoid handing the presidency back to a man from Mubarak's era and those fearing an Islamist monopoly of ruling institutions.

Some voiced fears of a backlash on the streets, particularly if Shafiq, who like Mubarak was air force commander, triumphs.

"If Shafiq or Moussa wins, they will create a revolution. Everyone will go down to Tahrir again," said one voter, Sherif Abdelaziz (30) who backs the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi.

Shafiq and Mursi supporters clashed in a village north of Cairo yesterday, wounding five people, police sources said.

The strongest Islamist candidates are Mursi (60) of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most influential political group, and ex-Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh (60).

Leftist Hamdeen Sabahy (57) is a dark horse in the race.

Irish Independent