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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. 

What to expect from Egypt's presidential election

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

end to the climate of uncertainty that the revolution and rolling demonstrations have produced. 

Hamdeen Sabahi, 57, leader of the Dignity Party, which harkens back to Gamal Abdel Nasser and his pan-Arab nationalism. He has some standing as a former part of the opposition. But in a historical sense he is even more old guard than Mubarak loyalists as his party romanticizes the very beginning of what turned out to be 60 years of military rule under former military officers who empowered a vast army to enrich itself through its own financial empire and allowed it to control almost every aspect of daily life.  

And there are two leading Islamist candidates:

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 60, a doctor and former head of the Arab Medical Union, who is campaigning as a more liberal Islamist and who parted ways with the Muslim Brotherhood to run back when the Muslim Brotherhood was vowing not to seek the presidency. 

Mohamed Mursi, 60,  of the Muslim Brotherhood is the more conservative Islamist candidate who the Brotherhood put up after rethinking the idea of holding back to consolidate its power in parliament and trying to appear not to be coming on too strong.

Neither one of these two choices – not the old guard nor the Islamist – bodes particularly well for the Egyptian people who came to the streets demanding change and the end of a police state. At first, the military was on their side in this struggle, but then the military forcefully exerted its power. And none of the leading candidates from either the old guard or the Islamist have voiced any clear plan to push the military to fall in line under a civilian government and its democratic institutions. 

The choices before the electorate also seem to run up against American diplomacy in the region which should be aligned with the pro-democracy yearnings of the protest movement. 

I would emphasize the word “should” be aligned with the pro-democracy movement when speaking of American diplomatic interests. It is not clear that American foreign policy “is” aligned with these forces. The United States has been fairly criticized for being late in recognizing the sweeping call for change in the Arab world, a series of events that began as brush fires in Tunisia and Egypt that caught on in Yemen and then Libya and that is now an inferno in Syria and burning out of control.

On this day as Egyptians head to the polls in the first free election in the country’s history, the US finds itself in a difficult position. It wants to support an orderly democratic process for this key ally and the most populist nation in the Arab world.

But it remains to be seen whether the US will push the military – and whether it will use the $1.3 billion in financial assistance as leverage – to relinquish its grip on government as it has vowed to do when a new president is sworn in. It also remains to be seen whether the US will  engage with the Muslim Brotherhood if they take the executive branch in addition to the clear plurality in parliament which it has already clinched with some 40 percent of the total seats.

The quiet hope inside the American Embassy, political analysts say, is a return to stability, a safe candidate from the “falool,” a ‘remnant’ of the old regime who will not challenge the authority of the military and challenge the US to face the long-standing hypocrisy of calling for democracy while preferring stability.

And if this acquiescence to the past stasis and a bow to the authority of the Egyptian military is indeed what the American diplomats want, they are likely to get their wish. 

So right alongside the three presumptions, there is also one great but fading hope. That is, that the Egyptian people, who have seen the life sucked out of this revolution upon which they had hung so many hopes, will find a way to restore their faith in their country’s capacity for change, perhaps further down the road, by turning out in huge numbers at the polls. With long lines for voting reported in the working class warrens of Alexandria and the elite pockets of wealth in Cairo and the vast underclass of the rural villages of Upper Egypt, there is good reason to hang on to that hope.