EU says will monitor Egypt vote after impounded equipment released

An Egyptian man passes under electoral billboards featuring presidential candidate, Egypt's former defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt, 18 May 2014. The European Union (EU) said on Monday it would monitor all of Egypt's preside
An Egyptian man passes under electoral billboards featuring presidential candidate, Egypt's former defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt, 18 May 2014. The European Union (EU) said on Monday it would monitor all of Egypt's presidential election, reversing a decision to scale back its operations after authorities agreed to release a load of impounded equipment. -- PHOTO: EPA

CAIRO (REUTERS) - The European Union (EU) said on Monday it would monitor all of Egypt's presidential election, reversing a decision to scale back its operations after authorities agreed to release a load of impounded equipment.

The bloc had said two days earlier that its officials would only be able to watch voting in the capital as vital communications and medical gear was being held up in the airport.

"We are going to be spread all over the country," EU Chief Observer Mario David told reporters on Monday.

Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who deposed elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last July following mass protests, is widely expected to win the presidency.

Supporters of Mr Mursi's now banned Muslim Brotherhood - which has seen hundreds of its members arrested, sentenced to death and killed during a security crackdown - have branded the election a farce.

The government says it is fighting "terrorism" and has blamed the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups for attacks on police and soldiers since Mr Mursi was deposed - accusations the Brotherhood has dismissed.

General Sisi - who is running against only one other candidate, leftist Hamdeen Sabahi - has become a quasi-cult figure for many Egyptians who see him as a strongman who can save Egypt after years of political turmoil.

Election observers from The Carter Centre have already raised concerns about the poll, saying in a report last week that restrictions on freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly have tightened.

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