Long lines at polls as Egypt holds landmark vote

CAIRO

Mubarak was forced to step down after an 18-day uprising. Voters have been standing in long lines in what observers say promises to be Egypt's fairest and cleanest election decades.

But it takes place amid sharp polarization among Egyptians and confusion over the nation's direction. On one level, the election is a competition between Islamic parties who want to take Egypt in a direction toward religious rule and more liberal groups that want a separation between religion and politics.

Egypt's military rulers, who took over from Mubarak, decided to go ahead with elections despite a new wave of unrest.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organized group, along with other Islamists are expected to do well in the vote.

Only 10 days before the elections major protests erupted, demanding the generals step aside because of fears they will not allow real freedoms.

For decades, few Egyptians bothered to cast ballots because nearly every election was rigged, whether by bribery, ballot box stuffing or intimidation by police at the polls. Turnout was often in the single digits.

Many said they were voting for the first time on Monday, a sign of an enthusiasm that, in this election, one's vote mattered.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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