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Egypt votes in final day of presidential election

Polarizing runoff vote comes amid fresh political turmoil.

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Egyptian women show their ink-stained fingers after voting at a polling station in Cairo on May 24, 2012, in the first round of voting in the country's landmark presidential election. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

CAIRO, Egypt -- Egypt's presidential election runoff enters its second and final day today as voters are asked to choose between former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq or the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi.

The vote is meant to put an end to a prolonged period of political uncertainty in Egypt after a historic mass uprising ousted former president Hosni Mubarak last year.

Instead, it comes on the heels of fresh political upheaval as Egypt's Supreme Court on Thursday dissolved parliament. The move increased the power held by the country's ruling generals, left the role of Egypt's newly-elected leader unclear, and threatens to further delay the writing of the constitution. 

More from GlobalPost: Egypt: The Revolution Continues

Polls opened at 6 a.m. today and were set to close at 6 p.m., according to France24, but AhramOnline said the hours may be extended to 8 or 9 pm.

The election has split the nation, with Shafiq supporters saying the former Egyptian Air Force commander is the only one experienced enough to handle what promises to be a challenging transition to civilian rule -- an event that the country's ruling military has promised will take place July 1. Shafiq took over as prime minister in the heady days following Mubarak's ouster in February 2011, but was forced out of office due to mass demonstrations against his rule. 

Morsi enthusiasts, meanwhile, say the US-educated engineer represents a new direction for a country clearly frustrated by the old regime yet seeking stability, pointing to the Muslim Brotherhood's long history and organizational strength in Egypt.

However, many activists who were directly involved in the protests that overthrew Mubarak, including the prominent April 6 opposition movement, have called on voters to spoil their ballots or boycott the vote to show their dissatisfaction with the candidates.

Ahmed Tarek, a doctor from Qalyubia north of Cairo, said he didn't vote because the the choice was "between the Muslim Brotherhood and what we say is felul," an Arabic word widely used as a reference for members of the former regime. "I don't like it."

His cousin, on the other hand, did vote. "I think Shafiq will be good for us," Mahmud Ali, a student, told GlobalPost, joking, "because I am felul."

"And I love Mubarak, by the way," he said. "Why [do] I have to hate him? I do not agree with his policies, but as a human, I like him." The comment prompted an outburst from cousin Tarek: "Many people [during the revolution had to] die, die die!" he cried. Such division between voters -- not to mention families -- is "what we got from the revolution," said Ali.

Over at Derby clothing store in downtown Cairo, the entire staff said they were pro-Shafiq. Twenty-five-year-old salesman Mahmud Salah said he cast his vote for the secularist former prime minister "even though I am Muslim."

"I want democracy in Egypt, and the freedom," Salah said. "My Mom says [she voted for] Shafiq, my whole family [is pro-] Shafiq. We need the peace in the country, number one." Morsi, for him, equals "no peace."

Others think the stability promised by Shafiq will be little more than a return to the status quo before the anti-government unrest. Khalid, a pastry shop worker who voted for the progressive leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi in the first round of elections, said this time, "I voted for Mohammed Morsi."

"Anybody in the world except anyone related to Mubarak," Khalid explained. "Shafik is a little kid, yanni [like], he takes his oldness from Mubarak. He's the assistant of Mubarak."

"Shafik is against the revolution," another Morsi voter, 18-year-old engineering student Mohammed Mohsen told GlobalPost. "Morsi is a revolutionary. The Muslim Brotherhood was with the revolution, and [they] fight for it."

Voter turnout today was expected to be extremely low due to possible voter fatigue, disenchantment with the candidates, and the extreme heat. 

Al Jazeera producer Evan Hill tweeted earlier: 

The new president will be announced on Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

Also today, Egyptian state media said the generals are already working on an interim constitutional declaration that would define presidential powers, establish who controls the budget, and reportedly also hands them temporary legislative powers until the formation of a new parliament, said AP.  

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/120616/egypt-votes-final-day-presidential-election