Egypt 'Campaign Silence' Beginsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Campaigning for Egypt's landmark presidential election ended on Monday, wrapping up an unprecedented exercise in democracy made possible by the 2011 popular uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
According to the electoral rules laid down by the Supreme Presidential Election Commission, the dozen candidates cannot give any media interviews or make public appearances until polls close on Thursday after the two-day election.
The main contenders are former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa; Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier to serve under Mubarak; the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Mursi and independent Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh.
A run-off is scheduled for June 16-17 should there be no outright winner.
Hopefuls have been criss-crossing the country for weeks, promising a brighter future to a population led by a string of autocratic rulers for decades.
Around 50 million eligible voters are being called to cast their ballots, as a massive security plan is under way.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said that security forces would be deployed at polling stations around the country, particularly at the 351 centers where ballot papers will be taken for the count.
The election has pitted Islamists against secularists, and revolutionaries against members of the former regime, and for the first time in the country's history, the outcome is unknown.
Just moments before the deadline for the "campaign silence," the powerful Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mursi warned Sunday against any attempt to tamper with the presidential poll, at a rally attended by thousands of supporters.
Moussa held a final press conference saying support was increasing for his campaign; days after Abul Fotouh held a festive final rally in Cairo promising to unite Egyptians.
Sketchy opinion polls taken by a government-funded think-tank and the cabinet's research division show Mursi trailing behind Abul Fotouh, Moussa and Shafiq.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took charge after Mubarak's ouster, has pledged a fair election and has promised to hand power to civilian rule once a new leader is elected.
The power transfer will seal the end of a turbulent transition period marked by violent and sometimes deadly protests and a deteriorating economy.
The military, headed by Mubarak's longtime defense minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, says it kept its promise to lead the country towards democratization, touting its ability to maintain a relative stability compared with other "Arab Spring" countries like Syria or Libya.