CAIRO: Egypt's anxious week of waiting for a president, a week marked by street protests and angry accusations between rivals of subverting the new democracy by force, is finally ending.
The electoral commission set 4pm Bahrain time today as the moment it will announce either that yet another general will fill the post left vacant by last year's overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, or that the Muslim Brotherhood, for decades the army's bitter enemy, will finally hold the highest office.
For many, the latter is more likely. But nothing is certain.
The ruling military council, which pushed Mubarak aside to appease the Arab Spring protesters, has just stripped the post of many powers and dissolved the Brotherhood-led parliament elected in January. Yet the presidency is still a prize, even if the vote will not end the power struggles over Egypt's future.
An Islamist president of Egypt, the biggest Arab nation, would be a major milestone for the Middle East, near unthinkable 18 months ago. It is far from confirmed. But the military, Brotherhood and others gave signs of expecting it will happen.
Brotherhood supporters camped out in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where the revolution was won, were generally in festive mood, though fear of disappointment still nagged, after decades of rigged elections.
In counterpoint, a few thousand rallied in a middle-class Cairo suburb to declare their support for the army.
The Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Morsy, the 60-year-old, US-educated engineer and political prisoner under Mubarak, had declared victory within hours of polls closing last Sunday - a move condemned by the generals. He has already met other groups and drafted an accord to form a national coalition government.
By contrast supporters of former air force commander Ahmed Shafik, 70, who was Mubarak's last prime minister, kept a low profile.