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Egyptians choose new president amid ongoing political chaos

Egyptians were voting yesterday in a run-off presidential election pitting an Islamist against Hosni Mubarak’s last premier amid political chaos highlighted by uncertainty over the future role of the army.

Frankly I’m scared of one and scared of the other, so I picked the one I’m least scared of

Small queues continued to form outside polling stations late into the afternoon, as police and army troops deployed nationwide for the highly divisive election. Voting was extended by an hour to 9 p.m.

Former air force chief Ahmed Shafiq, who served as ex-president Mubarak’s prime minister in the last days of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising that toppled him, is vying for the top job against Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi.

“I’m voting for Mursi because I don’t want Shafiq to win. I’m scared of Mursi but I’m more scared of Shafiq,” said Nagwan Gamal, 26, a teaching assistant.

Samir Abdel Fattah voted for the Islamist movement in the parliamentary elections, but the 50-year-old says this time he will vote for Shafiq.

“I was shocked by their performance in parliament. Now I’m voting for Shafiq because he’s civilised, he’s a good man.”

“If Mursi wins, he will only serve the brotherhood, not the country,” said the factory owner, standing by his wife who wears a full face veil.

The race has polarised the nation, dividing those who fear a return to the old regime under Shafiq from others who want to keep religion out of politics and fear the Brotherhood would stifle personal freedoms.

­“I will vote for the one who will guarantee security and safety for our community,” said Makram, a Coptic Christian voter, from a polling station in the Shoubra neighbourhood.

“I don’t know how to feel,” said Nancy Abdel Moneim, outside a polling station in Manial.

“I’m with the revolution so I voted for Mursi ...But frankly I’m scared of one and scared of the other, so I picked the one I’m least scared of.”

The new president – who will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the uprising – will step into the role with no constitution and no parliament in place.

The election comes against the backdrop of a series of steps that have consolidated the ruling military’s power, infuriating activists and boosting the boycott movement.

High-profile activists and celebrities have called on Egyptians to abstain or spoil their ballots, including film star and political activist Amr Waked, who told AFP he was boycotting the vote.

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