Egyptian MPs sustain boycott

Oppostion protests continue over proposed changes to Egypt's constitution.

    Without the opposition, the NDP may lack the moral authority to implement the proposed changes [AFP]

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    Egyptians did not see the walkout from parliament because television cameras had been banned.
    The government argues that the amendments will enable the state of emergency, in place since the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat, the previous president, to be lifted.
    But Amnesty International has said the amendments "write into the permanent law emergency-style powers that have been used to violate human rights over more than two decades".
    Rubber stamp
    On Tuesday, the Egyptian parliament is expected to rubber stamp Mubarak's proposed amendments before they are put to a popular referendum on April 4.
    The ruling National Democratic party (NDP) has a majority of seats in the Egyptian parliament large enough to pass the 34 amendments.
    But without the participation of most opposition parties, the NDP has been accused of lacking the moral authority to implement such changes.
    Egypt's opposition has already denounced the changes as "opening the way to a police state".
    The Muslim Brotherhood, candidates of which constitute Egypt's main opposition, has said it will boycott the vote.
    Other opposition parties have said they will vote against the proposed amendments.
    Describing the reaction to the proposals, Amr El-Khaky, Al Jazeera's Cairo correspondent, said this was "the first time in modern history that all opposition groups have come to an understanding".
    Amendments criticised
    Critics of the government say the amendments are designed to pre-empt any further gains by the opposition 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 change to Article 88, which governs elections, is also controversial because it repeals the judicial supervision of the ballot boxes.
    Many believe the judiciary's supervision over the election process allowed for greater representation of opposition MPs in recent elections.
    But, in an interview published on Saturday with Akhbar Al-Youm, a government newspaper, Mubarak defended his amendments.
    He said the reforms were "meant to deal with terrorism-related crimes only, through judiciary channels, and the judicial authority".
    Mustafa al-Feki, a member of Egyptian parliament and chairman of the Egyptian People's Assembly foreign affairs committee, said: "Not all the opposition has left, but I'm not saying everything is rosy.
    "I wish the Muslim Brotherhood had insisted to stay and expressed their ideas and views.
    "Those who are already members of parliament have the right to say what they want, have it published and reject what they want to reject. Democracy is a kind of balance between different kinds of groups."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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