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Euphoria gone as Egyptians cast ballots in runoff

| Saturday, June 16, 2012, 6:52 p.m.
An Egyptian voter displays his ink-stained finger, proving he cast his ballot, in a polling station on Saturday, June 16, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptians voted Saturday in the country's landmark presidential runoff, choosing between Hosni Mubarak's ex-prime minister and an Islamist candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood after a race that has deeply polarized the nation. The two-day balloting will produce Egypt's first president since a popular uprising last year ousted Mubarak, who is now serving a life sentence. (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell)

CAIRO -- Egyptians returned to polling stations in smaller numbers on Saturday and today to vote for a president amid new turmoil.

The country's high court dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament on Thursday, days after the justice ministry gave the police and military expanded arrest powers.

In 100-degree heat, they chose between former air force general Ahmed Shafiq, the ousted Mubarak regime's last prime minister, and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsy.

Gone was the euphoria of last month's first round.

To many, this choice is painful -- between "pestilence and cholera," in the words of some.

Voters for Morsy cited his willingness to implement Islamic law and his repudiation of the old regime.

Shafiq voters cited his government experience and his promise to restore stability after 18 months of rising crime and street protests.

In the impoverished area of Shubra Kheima, where garbage lines the streets, soldiers guarded a decrepit school used as a voting station.

Theresa Guindi said she voted for Shafiq to restore Muslim-Christian unity.

"We want a civil state, not a Brotherhood state" that would "go back to the times of ignorance," said Guindi, 57, a retired state worker.

Saha Salem, 30, voted for Morsy.

"He will apply the Islamic law," she said. "We will marry off the youth, the standard of living will rise, and there won't be death or rape that happened before."

"Ahmed Shafiq -- we like his path," said saleswoman Amrica Azmy, 42. "... Otherwise, women will be forced to go back to their homes."

Khaled Tantawi, a Brotherhood election observer, said his party had no choice but to continue on a democratic path after last week's court ruling. The Brotherhood won control of parliament in January.

He said Shafiq "can't win without forgery" and, if he does, "people will explode."

Several women said they willingly voted for Shafiq. "We refuse extremism," said one, Suad Omar Sherif, 48, wearing a long gray headscarf. "He treats Muslim and Christians equally."

She said Shafiq promised to use the Quran and the Bible in schools.

Many voters said they were not bothered by the court's dissolution of parliament over purported electoral irregularities. Some expressed joy that the Brotherhood and its ultra-Islamic partners, the Salafis, could lose power in new elections.

"This is the right time to dissolve the parliament," said Gad El Kafrawi, 58, a barber. "What have they done? They want girls to get married at 12 years and didn't solve any problems."

He said he voted for Shafiq.

Salafi preacher Mahmoud Barakat, with a long beard and a bruised forehead from touching it to prayer stones, called the presidential runoff "a step on the road to freedom."

Barakat, 43, said "change doesn't mean removing one person and bringing back the same face," referring to Shafiq's role under Hosni Mubarak.

Voting for Morsy in the slum area of Imbaba, he dismissed criticism of fellow Islamists.

"Love, justice, freedom, brotherhood and equality, these are the principles of Islamic law," he insisted.

Mahmoud Sameh condemned the court ruling as a "kind of military coup" and chose Morsy.

"It is true the Brotherhood made many mistakes, but that doesn't mean we should go back 30 years to oppression and corruption," said the 27-year-old clothes merchant.

Ahmed Mukhtar also voted for Morsy. "It will be a real disaster if Shafiq wins," said Mukhtar, 43, an Italian translator at a university. "I am afraid there will be too much blood.

"Freedom is not free, and we must pay more blood for freedom."

In the shadow of medieval mosques, Osama Hanafi voted for Shafiq.

Hanafi, 45, sells souvenirs to tourists but has had no customers for more than a year because of concern over unrest here. He said Shafiq "will make the tourism flow again."

"The Brotherhood, the first thing they said was that they would shut down tourism," he said. "We want tourism to come back. We are at the end of our ropes."

Outside the polling station, a man shouted to a foreign journalist: "Tell your family to visit Egypt -- we are good people!"

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