Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak is the favourite to win in the country’s first ever contested presidential polls. The 77-year-old is widely expected to score a fifth six-year term as leader of the Arab world’s most populous nation. In the past he hung to power as the only candidate in referendums, but agreed to change this year after pressure from the US and local protest groups. Only hours into the polls and there were complaints of irregularities.
Supporters of liberal opposition candidate Ayman Nour say indelible ink meant to prevent double voting comes off too easily. People also complain they could not find their names on registers. Another liberal, Noman Goma, is also considered a key rival. Both Nour and Goma are from the Wafd party, which dominated Egyptian politics in the early 20th century. Laws prevent the country’s largest opposition group, the moderate Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, from standing – officials have never allowed them to form a political party.
Dozens of members of the protest movement Kefaya, which means “enough”, has called for a boycott of the polls, holding a demonstration in Cairo. One member of the group said: “The president has chosen his challengers and that is not what happens in a democracy in the world in a presidential election.” The Prime Minister said protests were not allowed during this period. There was no sign of the police intervening, however, to stop the demonstration.