A series of constitutional amendments have been approved by Egypt’s parliament, but what government supporters are calling reforms, critics describe as threats to human rights. Among the changes is an anti-terrorism clause which gives the police sweeping powers of arrest and surveillance.
President Hosni Mubarak will also have the power to dissolve parliament unilaterally. Analysts see the changes as a bid to entrench his ruling National Democratic Party’s grip on power, something, which they say, Mubarak is keen to do ahead of handing over the party leadership to his son. In the run-up to the parliamentary vote security forces arrested dozens of critics. The Muslim Brotherhood is the country’s strongest opposition force and is likely to be hardest hit by the changes which prohibit political activity based on religion.
Nearly 100 Islamist MPs boycotted the parliamentary vote. Amnesty International has called the amendments “the greatest erosion of human rights since emergency laws were put in place after the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat.” A referendum scheduled for next Monday has to approve the changes before they become law.