[JURIST] Banned Egyptian opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood [party website, JURIST news archive] announced Wednesday that it plans to boycott [official statement] next week's referendum on controversial constitutional amendments [JURIST report] proposed last year by President Hosni Mubarak [official profile; JURIST news archive] and recently approved by lawmakers. The Brotherhood, while illegal in Egypt, currently holds 88 seats in the Egyptian Parliament [official website]; Brotherhood members were responsible for the majority of the dissenting votes in Monday's parliamentary vote [JURIST report] that passed the 34 amendments. Members charge that the amendments are specifically aimed at preventing the Brotherhood from gaining more control in the country's government, calling the referendum a "farce that will lead to more dictatorship, repression and tyranny in Egypt." The vote, scheduled for March 26, requires only a simple majority to pass.
On Tuesday US State Department [official website] Spokesman Sean McCormack expressed concern [press briefing transcript] that the Egyptian government might be deviating from its original intentions behind the amendments "to lift the national state of emergency," but reiterated that the US does not want to influence the process. Earlier this month, an Egyptian court froze assets [JURIST report] of 29 Brotherhood financiers, and Egyptian police have arrested at least 300 members of the Brotherhood since December, including 72 in a February raid [JURIST report]. The Brotherhood says the crackdown is meant to quell opposition to the referendum. AP has more.