Egypt sets May 23 for landmark presidential vote

CAIRO Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:19pm GMT

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's presidential election will be held over two days starting May 23, the state election committee said on Wednesday, as the country's military rulers prepare to hand power to civilians after last year's overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

A run-off between the top two contenders will take place on June 16 and 17 if no candidate wins outright in the first round and final results will be released on June 21, the committee's head, Farouk Soltan, told reporters.

The military has faced street protests and widespread demands that it hand power to civilians sooner than the end-of-June deadline it had set itself and intense speculation has surrounded the date of the vote.

The committee said 21 days of campaigning would begin on April 30. Some candidates have already been touring the country to drum up support, including former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and ex-Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh.

The Brotherhood, the once-banned Islamist movement that was Mubarak's chief political rival, has taken a dominant position in Egypt's new parliament but has not said who it would back for the presidency.

Current Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby is mooted as a consensus candidate, but said he has no such plans.

The vote is seen as the first genuine contest for head of state since the overthrew of King Farouk in 1952 ushered in a succession of strongman leaders drawn from the military.

Mubarak clung to power for three decades, winning a succession of crushing wins in elections condemned by his opponents as heavily rigged, and many Egyptians believed he was preparing to hand power to his younger son Gamal.

Incensed by endemic poverty, corruption and police brutality, millions of Egyptians took to the streets last January and February to demand an end to Mubarak's rule and the army leadership nudged him from office.

The election committee set a spending limit for the upcoming presidential campaign of 10 million Egyptian pounds (1 million pounds) per candidate.

(Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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