Egyptian voters began to cast ballots early Wednesday to choose their president from among 10 competing candidates in the country's first direct multi-candidate presidential election.
Polling stations in the capital Cairo opened around 8 am (0500 GMT) as voters weighed their decision on who will get the top job in the most populous Arab country.
All around the country, a total of about 32 million eligible voters were able for the first time to choose their leader from among more than one candidates through direct secret balloting.
More than 9,000 polling stations are due to remain open until 10 pm (1900 GMT) and the deadline could be extended, said the Presidential Election Commission, adding final results would be announced within three days.
Election workers were preparing ballot boxes at a polling station in the Egyptian capital, which had been converted from a schoolroom.
A court staff member was there to supervise the process, he added.
The first voter at the polling station happened to be a young man in his 20s who wore a T-shirt with a headshot of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and words which read "Mubarak, 2005" in Arabic, the campaigning log of the incumbent president.
Wumeim Moustafa, 53, was among the first to show up at the polling station and said she could not wait to exercise her right to vote.
"This is the first time I take part in a presidential election," said Wumeim, adding "I'm eager to participate in this democratic process."
Moustafa Imad, in his 70s, praised President Mubarak for opening the presidential poll to more than one candidate.
"This is an important step as Egypt moves toward full democracy," said the grey-haired retired university teacher.
"No matter who wins the election, I hope he can bring about a better life for the Egyptian people," he added.
In February, Mubarak proposed holding contested presidential election to replace an old system, under which the parliament nominated a single candidate for approval in a referendum.
A referendum in may approved a major constitutional amendment, paving the way for the first direct multi-candidate presidential election in the most populous Arab country.
Among the 10 contestants is Mubarak, candidate of the ruling National Democratic Party, who is seeking a fifth six-year term of office on a platform of economic and political reform.
Mubarak, 77, has ruled the country since 1981 after his predecessor Anwar Sadat was gunned down by extreme Islamists after making peace with Israel.
Among his nine challengers, only two stand out, namely Noaman Gomaa, candidate of the liberal New Wafd Party and Ayman Nour, candidate of the Ghad (Tomorrow) Party. The remaining candidates are relatively little known to the public.
With all the campaigning activities, most analysts have predicted Mubarak will snatch a comfortable win given to the fact he has won respect at home as a force for stability and support of the United States as a key mediator in the Middle East peace process.
Source: China Daily