Pro-democracy activists have demanded broad constitutional reforms [Reuters]

Egypt is planning constitutional amendments that would open up competition for the presidency and only allow the winner to stay in office for eight years.

The proposed amendments, outlined on Saturday by a judicial committee appointed by Egypt's ruling military council, will be put to a referendum ahead of elections that will hand power back to a civilian government.

The changes come in the wake of the popular uprising earlier in February that toppled Hosni Mubarak, who held the Egyptian presidency for three decades.

Mubarak was serving in his fifth, six-year term when he was forced from office by a mass uprising driven in large part by demands for reform to put an end to his one-man rule.

The existing constitution, suspended by the military council to which Mubarak handed power, made it almost impossible for an opposition candidate to mount a challenge to his ruling National Democratic Party.

The completion of the draft amendments is a milestone along Egypt's road towards the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections which Egyptians hope will herald an era of democracy.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces says it hopes to hold the elections within six months.

Rules relaxed

Tariq al-Bishri, a retired judge who heads the judicial committee that proposed the amendments, said that under the proposed amendments the elections would be subject to judicial supervision.

The proposed terms for candidacy are also looser than current requirements

Under the proposed rules, candidates would need the support of 30 parliamentarians, opposed to the former requirement for the backing of 250 members from a range of elected assemblies, including 65 MPs.

Alternatively, they could run as representatives of registered political parties which have at least one member
elected to either the upper or lower house of parliament.

The proposed amendments will also make it complicated for a president to maintain the state of emergency - Which Mubarak kept in place for decades.

Opposition activists want the state of emergency lifted as part of their demands for reform.

Demonstrators pressing those demands in Cairo were forcefully dispersed by the army on Saturday. An apology from the military council followed, assuring that such confrontations would not happen again.

Source: Agencies