Egypt votes to choose Mubarak successor

Cairo: Egyptians were voting Saturday in the country’s landmark presidential run-off, choosing between Hosni Mubarak’s ex-prime minister and an Islamist candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood after a race that has deeply polarised the nation.

The two-day balloting will produce Egypt’s first president since a popular uprising last year ousted Mubarak, who is now serving a life sentence.

The run-off pits Ahmad Shafiq, who was a career air force officer like Mubarak, and Mohammad Mursi, a US-trained engineer. The winner will be only the fifth president since the monarchy was overthrown nearly 60 years ago. Shafiq is viewed as an extension of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime while Mursi has raised fears of more religion in government and restricted freedoms if he wins.

The election is supposed to be the last stop in a turbulent transition overseen by the military generals who took over from Mubarak. But the issue of whether they will genuinely surrender power by July 1 as they promised has come under question since the military-backed government last week gave military police and intelligence agents the right to arrest civilians for a host of suspected crimes — a move that was widely interpreted as a de facto declaration of martial law.