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As Egypt's presidential election presents extraordinary challenges, GlobalPost offers this continuing series to shed light on how the country will move forward under its first-ever civilian head of state and how the soon-to-be-drafted constitution will protect civil rights in a new Egypt. 

Egypt presidential election military
Soldiers stand guard as as Egyptian woman wait to enter a polling station in Cairo on May 23, 2012, during the country's first presidential election since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak. Egyptians vote in historic presidential elections contested by Islamists and secularists promising different futures for the country after the overthrow of veteran dictator Hosni Mubarak. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

What to expect from Egypt's presidential election

Analysis: With US leaders hoping for another 'old guard' ruler, here are three likely outcomes.

It is unwise to try to predict anything in Egypt these days, but there are several safe assumptions that can be made as Egyptians head to the polls Wednesday and Thursday to elect a civilian president in the first open and fair elections in Egypt’s 7,000 year history. 

Watching the dramatic uprising of Tahrir Square unfold as it did last year with the toppling of Hosni Mubarak changed everything.

A place that was known for at least three decades for its unbearable stasis was suddenly and radically transformed by the ‘January 25 Revolution.’

And now, 15 months later, it’s hard to overstate the momentousness of this election: What a new presidency and, eventually, a new constitution will mean for the role of the powerful Egyptian military going forward and what it will means for the civil rights of women, religious minorities, and a strong but dormant labor movement. The extent to which the Islamists — both the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood and the more puritanical Salafist movement — will shape the constitution and the future of the country.

With so much at stake, it is almost impossible to predict where this still ‘unfinished revolution’ is headed right now. But at the risk of being wrong, here are three safe assumptions: 

The first is that this election will not produce a winner. The contest is almost certainly headed for a run-off vote starting June 16. Some analysts would argue that current polling, if it is even remotely accurate, mathematically guarantees that no candidate can receive the required 50 percent of the vote to win in this round of voting. If a candidate fails to take 50 percent, as the election rules state, then the two top candidates are to face each other in a run-off. So don’t hold your breath. Just wait for June.

More from GlobalPost: Raw Feed Video: Egyptians prepare to vote

The second is that this will ultimately be a contest between the old guard and the Islamists. Although there are five leading candidates among the 13 names on the ballot, there are really only two choices available in this election. That is the “falool,” Arabic for “a remnant” of the old regime. Or there are the Islamists who have emerged from the vast power base of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The third assumption is that the struggle for the future of Egypt has always been about the powerful grip the military holds over the country and has held for the last 60 years. So even the most optimistic of souls presume the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the group of generals who have been handed the direct rule of Egypt and its 80 million people during the period of transition from the uprising to this election, will not let go of its power – and its sprawling financial empire – any time soon. 

Okay, so to get back to what is going to happen in this election, which will take place over the next two days. Counting all of the paper ballots by hand is expected to take closer to a month. 

More from GlobalPost: In historic first, Egypt votes

On the ballot, there are three leading “falool,” or “remnant” candidates who represent the old guard. They include:  

Amr Moussa, 75, a former foreign minister under Mubarak and a former secretary-general of the Arab League. He has pitched himself as an elder statesmen who has sufficient separation from Mubarak. He points to his international standing and global contacts as a strength in helping to lead Egypt out of the political and economic crisis it has been since Mubarak was forced to step down. Most polls, including the venerable Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies, have Moussa as the front runner but  his critics say he is an undeniable product of the regime.

Ahmed Shafik, 70, a former Air Marshal in the military and the last Prime Minister to serve under Mubarak in the dying days of the regime. He proudly boasts that he is on good terms with the Supreme Council of the Allied Forces and has vowed a strict crackdown on protesters. He seems to be appealing to a yearning in many more conservative corners of Egypt for an