EU will not monitor Egypt vote after equipment blocked: official

An Egyptian man on horse cart rides past a huge banner for Egypt's former army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in downtown Cairo, May 6, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will not be able to monitor the Egyptian presidential election this month because Cairo has not given permission for it to bring essential security and safety equipment, an EU official said on Saturday.

"Unfortunately, for administrative reasons, despite our best efforts and repeated requests, it proved impossible to have the telecommunication equipment and medical kits essential to ensure the security and safety of observers released on time," the official said.

The EU had planned to start deploying election monitors in late April, with observers stationed throughout Egypt. It will now only have an "elections assessment team" in the capital, which will have a more limited role in scrutinizing the vote.

"It is now too late for the long-term observers to conduct a meaningful observation," the official said.

Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is widely expected to win the presidency, running against only one other candidate, leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, on May 26-27.

State media have rallied behind Sisi, whom many Egyptians who see as the strongman capable of restoring stability to Egypt after three years of turmoil following the downfall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the army-backed ousting of elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi last year.

(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in Cairo; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)