Source Pravda.Ru

Egyptian voters went to the polls Wednesday in this nation's first multicandidate race for president

Egyptian voters went to the polls Wednesday in this nation's first multicandidate race for president, but the initial refusal to allow any form of nongovernment poll monitors and the ruling party's overwhelming presence on the streets and at the voting stations led to concerns about the integrity of the process.

Polling stations around the capital were swamped with supporters for President Hosni Mubarak, inside and outside, and in several districts around the city people who said they would vote for the president were given raffle tickets offering prizes that include a free apartment, a pilgrimage to Mecca, a bedroom furniture set, and television sets, refrigerators and stoves.

Officials of President Mubarak's ruling Democratic National Party said that they had no hand in the raffle and that it was the work of local people, but they said that they had asked their supporters to come out in force to try to drum up support for the president. Still, the Mubarak campaign's effort to install a new, western-style politic on Egyptian society stumbled a bit as it converged with a culture set by decades of one-man, one-party rule.

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. and were to stay open until 10 p.m. in the country's first presidential election to feature more than one candidate. Mr. Mubarak faced off against nine opponents, though only two had any real following and after so many years in power, and a political patronage system that employed about 7 million people, Mr. Mubarak was expected to win easily. By law, ballots needed to be counted within three days, though the authorities said they hoped to have the results before Friday, The New York Times reports.