Cairo: It could have been a fitting culmination to Egypt's quest for democracy, but the last day of the presidential run-off to elect Hosni Mubarak's successor was marked by low voter turnout and a general disenchantment.
With a truncated finale that has left many unhappy with the choice of candidates, coupled with a recent court order dissolving the elected parliament, Egypt's politics is in turmoil and opinion stands deeply polarised.
According to estimates, the first day of the run-off saw a modest over 20 per cent electorate turning out to cast their ballots. The second day of polling did not begin on a much encouraging note either, with marked absence of voter queues.
Egyptians are choosing between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi and Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, a choice many describe as one between the devil and the deep sea.
With no constitution in place and the parliament being dissolved by a court order, the country's military rulers are expected to issue a complimentary constitutional declaration. They are also expected to appoint a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution.
At the end of the first day of vote, the campaign team of Morsi, claimed that 69 per cent of Egyptian voters had thus far chosen their candidate, according to Al Ahram.
However, despite the high stakes and the fact that this is the first free and fair election in the country, enthusiasm is visibly missing.
Egypt's Lawyers Syndicate said in a statement the majority of polling centres had not seen more than 15 per cent of registered voters come out, Al Jazeera said.
Some observers attributed it to high temperatures, and voting time was extended till 9 pm (local time).
Election commission chief Farouk Sultan, told media
persons that both candidates had been found responsible for violations on the first day.
"We observed more breaches committed by one campaign than the other," he said, without identifying the candidate.
Whoever wins the election will assume the presidency in an atmosphere clouded by uncertainty and cynicism. Moreover, in the absence of a constitution, a president's powers remain undefined.
With the military moving to dissolve the recently elected parliament, there is growing scepticism in the people about the intentions of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces.
The SCAF announced on Thursday that it was taking over the legislative powers and the task of drafting of a new constitution, following a court verdict declaring the parliamentary election unconstitutional on certain grounds.
"The new president will head to the presidential palace amid a terrifying legal and constitutional vacuum," wrote political analyst Hassan Nafea in the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Mohamed el-Beltagy, a senior politician of Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party called the court rulings a "fully-fledged coup" on his Facebook page.
Many smelt a military conspiracy to install Shafiq, a former air force man seen by people as a remnant of Mubarak's time, as the president.
"Why should I vote? My vote doesn't count and the picture is very clear? They want Shafiq and they are going to make him the next president whoever we vote for," Hussein, a Cairo taxi driver, was quoted as saying by Al Ahram.
Only last year, Egypt had risen in revolt against the 30-year iron-fisted rule of Mubarak, and ousted him in a mass uprising. Much of the optimism of the January 25 revolution now stands exhausted.
The run-off has come after a deeply polarising first round that saw a close fight between Morsi, Shafiq and the Leftist candidate Hamdeen Shabahi.
The country's revolutionaries, who were at the forefront of the movement that ousted Mubarak had actively supported Shabahi in the first round but are now grudgingly voting for Morsi to keep what they percive as 'Mubarak's man' at bay.
However, Shaifq find support in the section of population that has grown weary of protest and yearns for the stability of Mubarak's time.
"If Shafiq wins, there will be demonstrations, if Morsi wins, there will be demonstrations, at the end of the day, there will be a military coup," Mohammed Gharbani, a 30-year- old construction worker in Damanhour was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera, reflecting the divide and cynicism among the people.
First Published: Sunday, June 17, 2012, 10:44