Egypt: People’s Assembly under siege

Police blocked opposition supporters from protesting outside the Egyptian national legislature, the People’s Assembly, after the body adopted of a set of constitutional amendments the opposition says aim to ensure the ruling National Democratic Party’s power and the succession of President Hosni Mubarak’s son. Police arrested six activists, including two pro-reform bloggers, while sealing the area around the People’s Assembly March 20.

Mubarak has set a March 26 popular referendum to vote on the amendments that restrict political activity and outlaw political parties based on religion, effectively banning the main Muslim Brotherhood opposition. The move for a vote more than a week earlier than initially announced prompted accusations the government is deliberately speeding up the process to prevent the opposition from organizing a “no” vote. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Hamdi Hassan accused the government of passing the measures “in the night, like thieves” and said the manner of the vote “reveals the extent of the conspiracy against the people.” The Brotherhood is considering calling for a boycott. (AP, March 20)

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