May 22, - Egypt's first truly competitive presidential election in the republic's history is a landmark but raises many questions. Paul Chapman reports.
PLEASE NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Egyptians prepare to vote in the first truly competitive presidential elections in the republic's 60-year history. It's the first round of a poll that pits liberal candidates against Islamists. There's a huge burden of expectation on the eventual winner. All the contenders are pledging to bring back security and to lead the nation towards prosperity and democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood is the nation's best-organised political force. Former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa is also among the main candidates. So is ousted president Hosni Mubarak's last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. But there's already dissatisfaction among voters with the front runners. SOUNDBITE: HANAN RIDA, VOTER, SAYING (Arabic): "The Islamist parties are supposed to have delivered on certain things to the people once they got into parliament but of course they didn't deliver, they let the people down. So we've decided not to support anyone from the Muslim Brotherhood or from the remnants of the old regime." That kind of voter sentiment is boosting the chances of underdogs like Hamdeen Sabahy. Poverty is a key issue and many are looking for leadership that will create new opportunities. SOUNDBITE: HOSNI YOUSEF AL-SAIDI, JUICE SELLER, SAYING (Arabic): "Personally I am someone who has studies and I have a degree in trade so I would like real employment but instead I sell liquorice juice. So, God willing, knowing that Hamdeen is a good person, the most important thing is that he finds employment for the young, and lowers prices." Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president in a popular uprising 15 months ago. Egypt will get its first freely-elected and probably civilian president in six decades. That's assuming the generals who helped seal Mubarak's fate will keep their promise to hand over power by July 1st. But attempts to create a new constitution have stalled. No-one knows how power will be divided between president and parliament. And although the military may step back from day-to-day affairs it's likely to seek some kind of political role as self-perceived paternal guardian of the state. Paul Chapman, Reuters