After the initial rehearsals of fighting it out in the primaries, the stage is all set for the final act and the drop scene of electing the most powerful man on earth – or woman – if the American public so pleases. The candidates contending for the power position in the White House are according to some analysts, one of the most controversial and unpopular figures in the history of American presidential elections.

The USA quadrennial presidential elections of 2016 are scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016. These will determine the 45th President and 48th Vice President of the United States, in addition to a team of 33 Senators, 435 House Representatives and 12 Governors.

The series of presidential primary elections and caucuses took place between February and June 2016, staggered among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and US territories. These were staged to finalise the nominations of presidential candidates for both the Republican and the Democratic parties.

Businessman, real estate mogul and reality television personality, Donald Trump became the Republican Party’s presidential nominee after defeating US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and other candidates in the Republican primary elections. If elected, Trump will not only become the oldest president to take office, but also the first president with no political or military experience. Former Secretary of State and US Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton became the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee after defeating US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. If elected, she would be the first female president of the country.

In addition to yielding the first-something presidents, these elections are also crucially paramount in nature because they will set the tone not only on sensitive internal national issues like immigration and revival of the American economy but also American policies in war-torn countries of Syria, Afghanistan and combating the increasing threat of ISIS for the next four years. Post 9/11, after the destructive war-plagued eight-year presidency of George W Bush, followed by the much-hyped yet relatively sceptical two-term presidency of Barack Obama, all eyes (and anticipating minds) are now set onto the outcome of one of the most contentious, controversial, scrutinised and dramatic presidential elections in modern history.

Not without reasons, though. Republican Party’s presidential nominee Trump has been one of the most unlikely, unembarrassed and unabashed contender the race to White House has yet seen. Despite his misogynistic and sexist demeanour, his brazen, unedited use of crude language that makes America and all of his listeners cringe in their bones, he is reportedly closing-in on the lead his rival Clinton has, according to various polls. Trump, as he is reverently referred to, is decidedly a new phenomenon in conventional American politics. Trump has boasted of a racist and a blatant discriminatory attitude against Muslims living in America. Last December, he categorically called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” – a proposal that many legal scholars termed as unconstitutional and that many of Trump’s Grand Old Party’s (GOP) opponents blasted as “un-American.” However, according to a poll conducted by a media house, nearly two-thirds of GOP primary voters supported his proposal. His policy on Mexican border and illegal immigrants is equally aberrant and belligerent. In fact, at the core of Trump’s erratic presidential campaign, there has been one very consistent pledge: If elected, he will build a “great, great wall” to seal the US border with Mexico and stop the influx of illegal immigrants pouring in.

Also, after eight years of Democrat rule, people are looking for a change and a shift from the traditional, pristine, classic figure of a president. Trump seems to fit the description. According to a political observer, Trump has not only positioned himself as the anti-elite candidate, he has appealed to the disenfranchised working class who have not seen an actual rise in income in 40 years. These voters revile the Washington political establishment.

The profile, however, of his rival Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is politically outstanding; she is winning but, paradoxically, is equally and deeply unpopular. Almost all of the polls, barring a few latest ones, have shown Clinton heading the lead, albeit a closely contested one. Clinton, who is a seasoned politician, with an envious and elegant political profile, has served many roles in US politics - First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State. Now, she turns for a second time to her long-held ambition to fill the ultimate role –the first female president of USA.

While the disdain with respect to Trump is understandable, the aversion that Clinton exacts is almost indecipherable and hence more alarming. She has been typecasted as a high-ranking, elite, corrupt politician, someone who takes billions from donors and does what her donors want her to do. That makes her unreliable and untrustworthy.

Clinton’s presidential campaign, even before it began was rocked by accusations that she may have breached federal rules during her time as secretary of state by using a private email account for official business, including potential sensitive information. An FBI investigation maintained that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information. The email scandal has so tainted Clinton’s campaign and popularity that following the recent controversial decision by the FBI director to reopen investigation about the Democratic candidate’s email case, ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll showed Trump edging past Clinton among likely voters, 46-45pc, well within the poll’s three percentage point margin of error. Another poll earlier revealed that a majority of voters thought that Clinton should have been charged with crime for using a private email server. The American voters are deeply divided and perturbed at Clinton’s attempt to stonewall and evade investigations in this matter.

Theoretically speaking, Clinton has a huge advantage over Trump in many ways. Both the Electoral College and the nation’s new demography favours Democratic presidential candidates. The coalition of young, minority and educated voters who voted for Obama still burgeon on. Clinton has an impressive political resume and is overspending Trump by 40-1 in states that could determine who wins the campaign. Most importantly, Clinton is running against Trump, who has no political or foreign policy experience.

But surprisingly, Clinton (owing to allegations of her misconduct) and Trump are closely tied nationally, according to latest survey polls. And so in the theatrics of American presidential elections, America faces a hard, stark choice. So does the world. Whatever the outcome, the road ahead is equally challenging.