Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he will propose a constitutional amendment aimed at loosening some of the restrictions on opposition parties.
The constitutional changes are likely to prove limited
Mr Mubarak told parliament the changes would strengthen the chances of parties contesting presidential elections.
Critics say the move is intended to ease the succession of the president's son Gemal, through a process which only looks democratic.
Independent candidates are not expected to benefit from the new measures.
It is also understood that some of the changes will enhance the powers of both parliament and the prime minister, the BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo reports.
The constitution was amended last year to allow the country to hold contested presidential elections.
But so many conditions were imposed that, in effect, only the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of Mr Mubarak is eligible to present presidential candidates.
Opposition 'too weak'
The president now wants to loosen some of the restrictions so that the legal opposition parties could compete.
Officials of the ruling NDP say it will provide an incentive for the opposition to improve its performance.
Mubarak's son could succeed him, establishing a dynasty in a republic
The legal parties here are too weak to present much of an obstacle to any candidate backed by the NDP, our correspondent reports.
The amendments are not expected to ease the restrictions faced by independent presidential candidates. They are likely to come from the Muslim Brotherhood - a popular, though illegal group.