Egyptians began voting on Saturday in a run-off presidential election that offers them a stark choice between Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy and ousted president Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.
It is a novelty for ordinary Egyptians, who are choosing their leader for the first time in a history that stretches back to the pharaohs. Polling stations opened to 50 million eligible voters for the first of two days of voting at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT), television reported. They close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT).
On the eve of the election, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Egyptian Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and urged him to move swiftly forward with Egypt's political transition. He called for new legislative elections to be held as soon as possible.
During the telephone conversation, the two discussed current events in Egypt.
"Tantawi reiterated the SCAF's (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces') commitment to hold free and fair presidential elections.. and to transfer power to a democratically elected government by July 1," the Pentagon stated.
Panetta emphasized the need to "ensure a full and peaceful transition to democracy" and told Tantawi that he looked forward to working with the new government "to advance our mutual interests."