Millions of Egyptians are casting ballots this week in the first truly contested presidential election in almost six decades. About 50 million people are eligible to vote in the two-day process that began Wednesday, a process that marks the first time Egypt has voted for a new leader since former president Hosni Mubarak took office more than 30 years ago. Twelve candidates representing the “old guard” tied to Mubarak, Islamists, liberals and left-wing activists are vying for the top spot.
Egypt’s election is considered a major step forward in the path to reform after a popular uprising forced Mubarak from office in February of 2011, when activists took to the streets demanding not only Mubarak’s ouster, but also “bread, freedom and dignity.” Although they achieved their first goal, many Egyptians are still waiting to see social justice, a smooth transition from military to civilian rule, and an end to endemic corruption.
Islamist parties have already won control of both chambers of the parliament. This week’s presidential election, which may go into a run-off next month, will determine if Islamists will completely dominate Egyptian government.
The two-day vote is seen as a test of the reforms promised by a military council that has been ruling the country since Mubarak’s ouster.