Egyptians reacted nervously on Friday to the first results of their presidential vote, some celebrating the successful election, and others horrified by the strength of Muslim Brotherhood and ex-regime candidates.
Initial figures provided by the Brotherhood, which produced a tally based on its formidable network of observers at polling stations across the country, put their candidate Mohammed Morsi ahead.
Second place appeared to have gone to Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier to serve under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, though fluctuations as tallies came in at times put Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi in second place.
The election is the first time Egyptians have had to wait for the results of a presidential ballot to learn who won. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent, the two front-runners will participate in a run-off next month.
As he left the Al-Fath mosque after Friday prayers, 25-year-old Abdullah Rezk said he would be happy with whomever became Egypt's next president.
"Anyone of them is okay if the election was clean. Maybe one is better than another, but I can accept any of them," he said.
Rezk voted for Sabbahi, saying he liked his vision for the country, but he was keen to stress that Egyptians "must accept the results."
Nearby, Hassan Mohammed Yusef, a lecturer at Cairo University's school of law, was happy that his candidate Mursi appeared to be through to the next round, but expressed dismay at Shafiq's strong showing.
"The problem is that Shafiq got a lot of votes, which shows that the Egyptian people are still ignorant," he said, as a crowd formed around him outside the mosque.
"How dare you call the Egyptian people ignorant! You are ignorant!" one man shouted at him, cursing him in concert with several other observers.
"I have the right to speak my mind!" Yusef shouted back.
"Where is the change in people's minds?" he asked. "We tried the old regime for 30 years and look where it got us."
But despite his disappointment, Yusef said there was an upside to a race pitting Shafiq against the Brotherhood candidate.
"It makes the choice very clear, either a return to the theft, the ignorance, the corruption, the old way, or a new way, a way of dignity, freedom and justice."
In Tahrir Square, cradle of Egypt's revolution, the gentle Friday traffic flowed normally, barely interrupted by a handful of protesters who had come to show their anger about Shafiq's support.
Some insisted his apparent success was evidence that voters had been bribed, others said it suggested interference by the ruling military council, which some believe support Shafiq's candidacy.
But Peter Adel, a 33-year-old Christian accountant, was eager to identify himself as having voted for Shafiq, saying he was desperate to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of power.
"I hate the Brotherhood," he said. "They are divisive, they want a religious state, with no place for the Christians, they don't care about Egypt, all they want is an Islamic emirate."© ANP/AFP