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Egypt completes historic presidential poll
www.chinaview.cn 2005-09-08 04:16:59

    CAIRO, Sept. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- After months of preparations and nearly three weeks of vigorous campaigns, Egypt's first direct multi-candidate presidential election ended smoothly late Wednesday.

    More than 9,000 polling stations opened to voters at 8 a. m. (0500 GMT) and closed at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT).

    Incumbent President Hosni Mubarak, who proposed in February a multi-candidate system, has long touted the poll as a "historic" step for the most populous Arab country to move toward full democracy.

    In the past, the president was not elected directly by the people. Instead, the People's Assembly chose a sole candidate who would be later put to a referendum for sanction.

    Besides Mubarak, a long-time heavyweight in the Middle East, nine other opposition candidates joined the race.

    During the campaigns which ended on Sept. 4, the media, mostly controlled by the government, were asked to take an impartial position when covering activities of the 10 candidates.

    Observers believed the media have generally done a good job by having balanced coverage, for the state-run television allowed critics to speak out to the nation.

    Al Ghad (Tomorrow) party candidate Ayman Nour, critic of Mubarak, commended the poll as a "defining moment" in Egypt's history.

    "The election was a defining moment in the country's history as Egyptian voters were able to choose freely who will lead them," the40-year-old opposition candidate said after casting his ballot in Cairo.

    The monitoring of the poll, a contentious topic in the run-up tothe election, was well dealt with after the Presidential Election Commission (PEC) decided to allow independent monitors from non-governmental organizations in polling stations for supervision.

    "Civil society groups can visit polling stations on condition that they do not interfere in or block the election process," the commission said in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by Xinhua.

    The commission had originally refused to endorse independent monitoring of the poll, saying that the judiciary could provide full supervision of the electoral process.

    According to the PEC, vote counting will first be carried out atpolling stations, with each judge emptying ballot boxes at the end of the vote.

    The general committees at governorate level will then inform PECrepresentatives of the count results, which will be passed on to the PEC in Cairo in order to sort out the votes and declare the winner.

    The preliminary results are likely to be announced on Friday. Ifno candidate wins over 50 percent of the votes, a second round of voting will be held on Sept. 17 between the top two candidates in the first round.

    In case there is no run-off, the People's Assembly will be recalled within the week for an extraordinary session to swear in the new president. Enditem


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