EGYPT'S FIRST 'FREE AND FAIR' PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS // 34 Photos

On May 23 - 24, 2012, Egyptians went to the polls to 'freely' elect a president for the first time in their history. The poll was not perfect, with some irregularities reported by the few international observers permitted to document the elections' progress. Despite this, Egyptians largely went to their first open presidential poll in positive spirits, eager to partake in this great democratic experiment.

13 candidates took part in the race, led by a field of 5 arguable front-runners. Conservative Islamist candidates campaigned against progressives, socialists and former regime figures. The Muslim Brotherhood's Dr Mohammed Morsi was pitted against socialist Hamdeen Sabbahi, progressive Dr Ahmed Moneim Aboul Fotouh, former Arab League leader Amr Moussa, and most controversially, Hosni Mubarak's last Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, candidates criss-crossed the country in campaign busses, taking to the stage in Egypt's towns to spruik themselves as the country's next leader. Some candidates took the path of a high-publicity media blitz, across television, billboards, newspaper ads and online. Others campaigned more quietly, shying away from the foreign and local media hustling to get quotes and pictures and using local networks of influence to gain voters' support.

Results for the first round of voting became obvious within 24 hours, days before the official announcement was due. While socialist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi looked like he may just make the runoff, final votes counted in Cairo and Giza governorates put Hosni Mubarak's final Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq, into the second round against the most popular candidate in the initial vote, the Muslim Brotherhood's Dr Morsi.

For many Egyptians, the final presidential vote represents a chance to return Egypt to a state of stability - either through their trust in the Islamist movement of the Muslim Brotherhood and Dr Morsi, or the security-heavy policy of a 'return to normality' put forward by the 'felool' (or old regime) candidate, Ahmed Shafiq.

However, for Egypt's revolutionaries, these results were tough medicine to swallow. Not a single progressive or 'revolutionary' candidate had made the final round of voting, and revolutionaries found themselves back in Tahrir Square, arguing whether to vote for a conservative Islamist in Dr Morsi, or to support a figure who represented the regime they had fought to overthrow only 15 months before, in Shafiq.

In the second and final round of Egypt's first 'free and fair' Presidential elections ever, held during mid June, Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Dr Mohammed Morsi, received the most votes, but only just. After a week of deliberations and protests after the vote itself, Dr Morsi was controversially declared the winner with 51.7% of the vote - a very slim margin with which to lead the Arab world's largest state and most important economic power.