Egyptian voters are going to the polls in the first presidential vote to be held since the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak a year ago. The country's premier has appealed for calm, whatever the outcome.
Voters across Egypt are casting their votes at polling stations across the country on Wednesday, with 13 candidates contesting presidential elections.
Members of the country's ruling military council have called on all members of the electorate to take part in the "first step" of the country's democratic process.
Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri on Tuesday appealed for calm, urging people to accept the result of the poll.
That plea came after several political groups vowed to stage mass demonstrations if candidates associated with the Mubarak regime win.
Among the leading contenders are Mubarak's last premier Ahmed Shafiq and former foreign minister and Arab League head Amr Moussa.
Others include the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, independent Islamist Abdel-Monaem Abul-Fetouh and the leftist contender, Hamdeen Sabahy.
Advocates of political Islam made a good showing in parliamentary voting that ended in January.
However, none of the 12 candidates was expected to secure more than half the votes in the first round, making a run-off between the top two likely in June.
The contest is a unique moment for a nation in which elections during Mubarak's 30-year rule were thinly attended, being perceived to be a foregone conclusion.
More than 50 million people are eligible to vote in the two-day poll, from a population of 80 million.
rc/mz (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)