Egyptians are voting in a free presidential election today for the first time in their history, with lineups starting long before polling stations opened.

The country's road to democracy began more than a year ago with the Arab Spring and the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, who was in power for more than 30 years.

"Generally speaking, there haven't been a lot of problems" with Wednesday's voting, the CBC's Sasa Petricic reported from Cairo's central Tahrir Square.

Recalling the Arab Spring confrontations with police and soldiers in the square more than a year ago, he said Wednesday's atmosphere was much different.

"The police and military have been out at times in the square here, but the police have been here to direct traffic, which there's always lots of, and the military, in fact, has been going around with loud speakers urging people to vote," Petricic said. 

"They held a news conference yesterday to say they're quite happy to hand over power by July 1, which is the deadline that they set quite a while ago."

In Cairo on Wednesday morning, people had lined up for more than an hour before polls opened, the CBC's Derek Stoffel reported. Voting is segregated, with separate lines for men and women.

"We have been ruled by pharaohs, sultans and kings, but this is the first time we have elected one of our own to lead us," one woman told Stoffel as she waited to cast her ballot. "This is amazing."

Unlike previous elections, which had small turnouts and a foregone conclusion, this one is taken to be genuine, as people select a government to replace the transition military regime.

Yet some of the county's more than 50 million voters were still unsure who to vote for even as they headed out to cast their ballots, Reuters reported Wednesday.

"I will vote today, no matter what," Mahmoud Morsy, 23, told the agency. "It is a historic thing to do — although I don't really know who I will vote for."

He said he would probably pick the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohamed Mursi.

Other leading candidates include Mursi's former Brotherhood rival Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and former Arab League general secretary Amr Moussa.

Thirteen candidates, including Islamists, liberals and Mubarak regime figures, are contesting the election.

Run-off anticipated

No outright winner is expected to emerge from the two-day vote, so a run-off between the two top finishers will likely be held June 16-17. The winner will be announced on June 21.

The generals who took over from Mubarak after an 18-day uprising forced him to step down 15 months ago have promised to hand over power by July 1, ending a turbulent transitional period defined by deadly street clashes, a faltering economy and a dramatic surge of crime.

The military has said it has no intention to cling on to power, and that it would ensure the vote is fair and clean.

The election comes less than two weeks before a judge is to hand down his decision following the lengthy trial of Mubarak, 84, on charges of complicity in the killing of some 900 protesters during the uprising against his 29-year rule.

He also faced corruption charges, along with his two sons, former heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa.

With files from The Associated Press