CAIRO – Millions of Egyptians will vote today in the first election since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, but the mood is somber rather than celebratory.

Analysts say the haphazard parliamentary elections are the culmination of nearly 10 months of “colossal mismanagement” by Egypt’s ruling military council, whose failure to push through real democratic reforms leaves the Arab world’s most populous nation with an unfinished revolution. The disarray is a warning to other Middle Eastern countries in transition from authoritarian rule, analysts say.

Behind the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ insistence on holding elections in a country that’s hardly ready — by security, political or logistical benchmarks — is a fight for the preservation of six decades of military dominance over Egypt’s political and economic life.

Nearly all of the nation’s disparate revolutionary factions now describe the military as the biggest stumbling block to democratic civilian rule. And yet, with elections proceeding and the generals trotting out another mostly toothless interim Cabinet, it was unclear how the widening chasm between the generals and the revolutionaries could be bridged.

“They’re still thinking in the same paradigm of Mubarak authoritarianism; it’s all just the same,” said Heba Morayef, an Egyptian researcher for Human Rights Watch and an outspoken critic of the council. “There is no easy exit strategy, no easy fix at all.”

Not holding elections on time would have wrecked the schedule created by the council and forced the military to start anew, presumably with more input from outside players and new restrictions on the virtually unchecked power the military council has had since taking control after Mubarak’s resignation last winter.

The political elite’s preoccupation with voting vs. boycotting, or liberals vs. Islamists, is a sideshow, some political scientists argued. Under the current conditions, the incoming parliament will have little say over forming a Cabinet or picking the drafters of a new constitution.

The military council’s inner workings as well as its vast and diverse financial portfolio — huge factories, farms and development projects — would remain hidden from the public. A cornerstone of the ruling generals’ budget is $1.3 billion in annual aid from the United States.

“They’re pushing for elections because they want to save themselves, but the elections themselves don’t mean anything,” said Robert Springborg, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School who’s written extensively on the Egyptian military. “You cannot have a military that runs a massive economy without any oversight and talk about democracy.”

Chilly rains washed over the grimy streets of Cairo on Sunday night, only adding to the collective gloom expressed by many of Egypt’s 50 million eligible voters, even those who planned to cast ballots.

Only hours away from the vote, the official election website crashed, politicians still campaigned in violation of electoral law, and dozens of foreign journalists had yet to receive credentials allowing them access to polling stations. Reports abounded of blocked-off polling sites, and international monitors were quoted as complaining about the lack of secure storage for ballot boxes.

The election would go on, but whether the results would be considered legitimate was another matter.

“It will depend on what results come out of such elections,” said Mohamed Farahat, a political analyst in Cairo. “If the civil powers get a majority in this parliament, there will be little opposition to its legitimacy or performance, but if we find a majority of the former (ruling party) or Islamists, no one will accept such government or parliament.”

Neighborhood patrols and Islamist groups mobilized to protect polling stations in the absence of police, who melted away after Mubarak’s ouster, and the inability of the military to secure a country of some 85 million with an army of 500,000.

News of the first election-related death — a candidate who reportedly succumbed to wounds from a stabbing last week — only worsened fears of a violent Election Day, as animosity runs higher than ever between supporters of the old guard and the youth-led revolutionaries.

“We have two Egypts now — Egypt in Tahrir Square with noble intentions and goals, and the other Egypt, the people getting ready to hijack the power,” said Gamal Zayda, managing editor of Egypt’s largest newspaper, the state-backed Al Ahram.