Egypt's parliament agreed on Sunday to a two-year extension of emergency law requested by the government.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the strongest opposition force, said there was no justification for extending the law, which Hosni Mubarak, the president, last year promised to substitute with anti-terrorism legislation.
Mubarak had signalled that the law would be extended before bombers killed 18 people in the Red Sea resort of Dahab last week and attacked a multinational peace force in the Sinai peninsula.
Emergency law has been in force since October 1981, when Islamist militants assassinated President Anwar Sadat and Mubarak took office. The law gives the government wide powers to detain people without charge and restrict civil liberties.
Ahmed Nazif, the Egyptian prime minister, asked parliament to approve emergency laws for another two years or until the government had prepared the anti-terrorism law.
Two years "was not long when measured against the dangers which threaten us and our future", he told the chamber. "We will never use the emergency law other than to protect the citizen and the security of the nation and combat terrorism," he said.
A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood members of parliament condemned the extension and said it was the wrong way to fight extremism.
"We have been under the emergency law for 25 years while the terrorist acts have been under way," Hamdi Hassan, himself an MP, told Al Jazeera. "Only by introducing more freedom and transparency could such events be prevented.
"This is only part of a string of actions by the government to dodge its election promises and commitments for adopting constitutional reforms as demanded by the Egyptian people," Hassan said.
Control of parliament
The emergency law was due to lapse at the beginning of June. Approval by the parliament, or People's Assembly, for the extension was a foregone conclusion because the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) controls more than two-thirds of the seats.
Prime Minister Nazif asks the
People's Assembly to renew the law
Ninety-one members, a quarter of the 378 members of parliament in attendance, opposed the extension. Most of the opponents were from the Muslim Brotherhood, which holds nearly a fifth of the seats in parliament.
"They use (the law) to silence and oppress the opposition," Brotherhood deputy leader Mohamed Habib said.
He said the government had had enough time since September, when Mubarak pledged to replace the emergency law, to draft the anti-terror legislation.
"If they had wanted to end the state of emergency and to present an alternative draft law, they could have done that," he said.
Mubarak said this year that drafting anti-terrorism laws to replace the emergency law could take 18 months to two years and that the government could not allow a gap between the two.
Opposition members, expecting the request, came to Sunday's session wearing black sashes inscribed "No to Emergency Law".
Sandals remain in a pool of blood
after the Dahab bombings
Under emergency law, the government is holding at least 10,000 people without charge, human rights groups say.
The United States, a major aid donor to Egypt, called last year for the abolition of emergency law, among other political changes, as part of its campaign for reform in the Arab world.
But the campaign has lost much of its momentum, partly because of electoral successes by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, analysts say.