Egypt parliament passes 'reforms'

Constitutional amendments approved despite opposition boycott and rights erosion charge.

    Many opposition politicians walked out of discussions and boycotted the proceedings [EPA] 

    Consolidating power
     
    Legislators, mostly from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), led by Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, reportedly cheered and sang the national anthem after the amendments were passed.
     
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    Some analysts say the 34 amendments, which must still be approved in a popular referendum, are aimed at entrenching the ruling party's grasp on power and will pave the way for Gamal, Mubarak's son, to inherit power from his father.
     
    The proposed amendment to Article 179 has come in for particular criticism since it would allow the authorities to arrest suspects, search their homes, read their mail and tap their phones without a warrant.
     
    It would also mean civilians accused of "terrorism" could be tried in military courts.
     
    The amendments, which also prohibit political activity based on religion, are expected to further restrict the already banned Muslim Brotherhood, the strongest opposition force in Egypt, quashing the group's hopes for legal standing as a recognised political party.
     
    About 270 Brotherhood members are in detention, with many arrested in the days leading up to the vote.
     
    On Sunday, about 100 legislators, including independents affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, walked out of a parliamentary session to discuss the proposals, saying they were boycotting the sessions to keep their consciences clear.
     
    Critics argue that without the participation of the opposition parties the NDP lacked the moral authority to implement the changes.
     
    Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, has called the amendments "the greatest erosion of human rights" since emergency laws were enacted in Egypt in 1981 after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the then president.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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