Update: Presidential election to begin on 23 May, results to be announced on 21 June

Egypt's first presidential election since Hosni Mubarak's ouster last year will be held on 23 and 24 May and final results will be released on 21 June, the Presidential Elections Commission said on Wednesday.

If necessary, a run-off vote will take place on 16 and 17 June, the head of the commission, Farouk Sultan, said during a nationally televised news conference. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote in the first round in May, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff.

Sultan added that expatriates will be allowed to vote from 11 May to 17 May.

Candidates may register to run for president from 10 March until 8 April. The committee said 21 days of campaigning would begin on April 30.Some candidates have already been touring the country to drum up support.

The elections commission set a spending limit for the upcoming presidential campaign of LE10 million per candidate.

Sultan said there would be no international monitoring of the election.

Former president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down a year ago after an 18-day popular uprising that brought hundreds of thousands into the streets. Egypt's military took over from him, at first pledging to transfer power to a civilian government within six months.

The transitional period has stretched to a year and a half.

The poll comes during a turbulent transitional period during which the military, once lauded for not supporting Mubarak during the 25 January revolution, has become the target of revolutionary activists.

Anti-military activists fear that the military, long the most powerful institution in the country and whose ranks produced the last three presidents, will try to cling to power through a pliant civilian administration.

At least ten candidates have announced their desire to run for president, including former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, former Prime Minister and military general Ahmed Shafiq and Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s guidance bureau.

Last month, Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear watchdog chief turned political reformer, said he would not run in the election conducted under military auspices.

According to a poll conducted last November by the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in partnership with a Danish think-tank, Moussa is leading the race and his competitors are far behind.

All the Egyptian presidents since the Free Officers Movement seized power in 1952 were from the military. This election might result in the first civilian president in six decades.

So far Islamists have dominated elections for the two houses of Parliament. Parliament's main task is to appoint a 100-member constituent assembly that will draft Egypt’s new constitution.

Islamists are expected to support one of three Islamist candidates, including Abouel Fotouh, Hazem Abu Ismail or Mohamed Selim al-Awa.

The Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party dominates Parliament, has said it will not field a candidate. However, there has been much speculation about who the FJP will support, with party leaders saying their choice will be a surprise and the media reporting that an Islamic-oriented candidate, possibly one who has not yet declared his intention to run, will gain FJP support.

According to the military's initial timetable, the presidential election was not supposed to take place before the constituent assembly completed the new constitution.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi has called on Parliament to meet on 3 March to elect the constituent assembly, but it is not clear whether the assembly could finish its work before the start of the presidential election.

Some presidential candidates have feared that by the time elections began, the constitution would have redrawn the political system to invest more powers in the hands of a prime minister, as the Freedom and Justice Party demands.

FJP officials have said they should be allowed to form the government, the current government, led by Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri having been appointed by the military.

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