CAIRO: Egypt s largest Islamist opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other opposition lawmakers on Monday rejected controversial constitutional amendments demanded by the president.
The lawmakers said they do not plan to attend an upcoming Parliament voting session and called Egyptians to boycott next month s planned referendum on the amendments, according to a statement read by Mahmoud Abaza, the leader of the liberal opposition party Al-Wafd.
On Monday, the parliament s advisory upper chamber approved the draft amendments, which were also approved last week by a Parliament committee. Parliament s lower house is expected later this week to vote on the proposed amendments. If approved, Egyptians are expected in April to cast the final vote on whether to approve the amendments.
In December, President Hosni Mubarak asked the legislature to amend 34 articles in the constitution as part of a political reform package – the first major change in the constitution since 1971. But the opposition, which represents about 25 percent of the 454-seat Parliament, has criticized the amendments as backtracking on democracy.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt s strongest Islamic opposition group whose lawmakers hold seats as independents in parliament because the party is officially banned, announced last week their withdrawal from the committee drafting the amendments.
The amendments and their formulation express the vision of the ruling party only, a statement on the Brotherhood s Web site said.
The opposition specifically opposes an amendment that cancels judicial monitoring of elections and another that bans the formation of political parties based on religious denomination.
Since December, authorities have intensified their campaign against the Brotherhood after student members of the group staged a militia-style demonstration at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, stoking government fears the group was forming a military wing.
Most recently, state security police late Monday arrested Mahmoud Sayed Ghazlan, a senior leader of the Brotherhood, said the group and police officials, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.