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Egyptians are set to vote in the second round of their first free presidential election in a two-day run-off.

Mohammed Mursi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, is up against Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has promised to hand over power to the winner by 1 July at the latest.

But the build-up to the election has been marred by a Supreme Constitutional Court decision to dissolve parliament.

On Thursday, a panel of judges – appointed by Hosni Mubarak – ruled that the law governing Egypt’s first democratic elections in more than six decades was unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats reserved for independents.

The Freedom and Justice Party won about 100 of its 235 seats in the People’s Assembly by running candidates for individual seats.

If parliament is dissolved swiftly by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), whoever wins this weekend’s presidential run-off could take office without the oversight of a sitting parliament, and without a permanent constitution to define his powers or duties.

Egyptians are set to vote in the second round of their first free presidential election in a two-day run-off

Egyptians are set to vote in the second round of their first free presidential election in a two-day run-off

A 100-member assembly appointed by parliament earlier this week to draft the new constitution may also be dissolved.

Islamist, liberals and scholars denounced the ruling as a “coup”, saying they feared the ruling generals would take back legislative power.

“This series of measures shows that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the head of the counter-revolution, is adamant to bring back the old regime and the presidential elections are merely a show,” six parties and movements said in a joint statement that also urged Mohammed Mursi to boycott the run-off.

The Supreme Constitutional Court also found a law blocking senior Mubarak-era officials from the presidency – which would have ruled out Ahmed Shafiq’s candidacy – was unconstitutional. The law was passed by parliament before the presidential election’s first round.

On Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood vowed to win the presidency despite the signs of opposition within the judiciary, which is overseeing the vote.

“Isolate the representative of the former regime through the ballot box,” said a statement referring to Ahmed Shafiq, who also served as head of the air force and minister of aviation under Hosni Mubarak.

The Brotherhood warned that the progress made since the president was forced to step down was being “wiped out and overturned”.

Egypt was facing a situation that was “even more dangerous than that in the final days of Mubarak’s rule,” the group added.

Mohammed Mursi meanwhile sought to reassure the military and its supporters within the electorate that he would work closely with the generals.

“As president, they will be in my heart and will get my attention… they will never do anything to harm the nation,” he said.

On Thursday, Mohammed Mursi warned there would be a “huge revolution against the criminals” if there was any evidence of electoral fraud.

His opponent meanwhile told a rally that the court rulings were “historic” and that the “era of political score-settling” had ended.

On Friday, Ahmed Shafiq promised to “address chaos and return stability”.

He came second in last month’s first round, in which turnout among the 52 million eligible voters was only 46%. Official results gave Mohammed Mursi 24.8% and Ahmed Shafiq 23.7%.

Polling stations are due to open on Saturday and Sunday at 08:00 and close at 19:00, but voting is likely to be extended on both days.

Final results from the Higher Presidential Election Commission (HPEC) are due by 21 June, but are expected to arrive much earlier.

Partial results from the first round were declared within 24 hours.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for the SCAF to transfer power fully to a democratically elected civilian administration as soon as possible following the announcement of the final result of the election.

“There can be no going back on the democratic transition called for by the Egyptian people,” she told reporters in Washington.

 

Egyptians will choose between Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq, a candidate from the Mubarak-era regime, when the presidential election goes to a run-off, state media confirm.

Mohammed Mursi has a slight lead on former PM Ahmed Shafiq with a reported 25.3% of votes against 24.9%.

The two represent forces that have battled each other for decades.

The second round in Egypt’s first free presidential polls is on 16-17 June.

Voting in the first round took place peacefully on Wednesday and Thursday.

The official results will be announced on Tuesday, but state media have been reporting tallies from polling stations around the country and have now confirmed the two frontrunners.

The vote was hailed as a historic achievement by international observers but many Egyptians – particularly supporters of the revolution – will find the choice they have been left with most unappealing.

Egyptians will choose between Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq, a candidate from the Mubarak-era regime, when the presidential election goes to a run-off

Egyptians will choose between Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq, a candidate from the Mubarak-era regime, when the presidential election goes to a run-off

A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood said Egypt would be “in danger” if Ahmed Shafiq won, and the group would reach out to other candidates to defeat him.

Warning of “determined efforts to recreate the old regime”, the Brotherhood urged parties that supported the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak to unite around their candidate.

They have invited a range of opposition figures to a meeting on Saturday.

Both the Brotherhood and Shafiq campaigns have accused each other of “stealing” the revolution.

Ahmed Shafiq spokesman Ahmed Sarhan urged pro-revolutionaries to vote for his candidate, saying that while his programme was about “the future”, the Brotherhood’s was about “an Islamic empire”.

The polarized choice remaining in the run-off suggests Egypt could be entering a new period of confrontation.

Ahmed Khairy, spokesman for the Free Egyptians Party, a secular liberal party which emerged last year, said the outcome of the first round was “the worst possible scenario”, reported Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram.

He described Mohammed Mursi as an “Islamic fascist” and Ahmed Shafiq as a “military fascist”.

The pro-revolution vote was split, the reported results suggest, between leftist Hamdin Sabbahi (third with 21.5%) and a moderate Islamist who broke with the Brotherhood, Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh (fourth with about 19%).

Hamdin Sabbahi dominated in many urban areas, including Alexandria, local reports suggested.

Former Arab league chief Amr Moussa trailed in fifth place.

Mohammed Mursi and ahmed Shafiq represent very different strands of Egyptian society.

Mohammed Mursi is seen as belonging to a popular strand of political Islam that was excluded from the political process for many years under Hosni Mubarak.

Ahmed Shafiq, who served briefly as Hosni Mubarak’s prime minister, is regarded by many as a creature of the old secular regime.

Analysts say he drew his support from people fearful of an Islamist takeover, and those exhausted by the upheavals of the past 16 months.

About 50 million people were eligible to vote in the polls, in which 13 candidates were vying for the presidency.

It was the country’s first freely contested presidential election in its history, and observers said it had been conducted peacefully.

The military body that assumed presidential power in February 2011 – the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – has promised a fair vote and civilian rule.

Until a new constitution is approved it is unclear what powers the president will have, prompting fears of friction with a military which seems determined to retain its powerful position.

Many Egyptians have grown frustrated with the pace of change in their country following the revolution, as the economy languishes, public services break down and crime levels rise.