Day of the Pharaoh is done as Egypt picks up the pieces
The Times: For the first time in their 5000-year history, Egyptians do not know who their new leader will be. This week's landmark presidential election, run over two days on Wednesday and yesterday, is the culmination of an extraordinary struggle that swept aside Hosni Mubarak, the ''big man'' who ruled Egypt with an iron fist for three decades.
Unlike in the Mubarak era, when parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood were banned or hounded out of contention, this time around 50million Egyptians are freely choosing their president from a broadly representative list of candidates. And unlike previous elections - both before and after Mubarak's ousting - this poll seems to have been relatively well managed and has not been accompanied by widespread allegations of irregularities.
On Wednesday, in another sharp break with the Mubarak era, the presidential candidates queued with ordinary folk to cast their ballots.
It was a momentous day, but there was little evidence of celebrations in the streets as Egyptians, possibly weary after staging the successful revolution - and the numerous street battles with the security forces that followed it - quietly went about the business of reshaping their country.
Although an Islamist president is the most likely outcome - the Muslim Brotherhood's party already controls the parliament after an earlier vote - observers say that secular candidates such as former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last premier, still have an outside chance.
This is partly because many Egyptians have voiced disappointment with parliament's failure to assert itself over the transitional government set up by the army which took over from Mubarak. Voters may be underwhelmed by the quality of the candidates, but the fact that they have a choice at all is remarkable.
The new president faces the formidable task of restoring security and reigniting the once-powerful Egyptian economy.