The first session of the National Dialogue, named “the Session of the January 25 Youths,” witnessed chaos as the presence of some former members of the now-dismantled National Democratic Party and old regime figures angered some participants and compelled them to leave.
Some youths took the podium and called for the departure of the former NDP members, chanting: “We do not want the [National Democratic] Party, even if we will be shot with bullets for saying so.” The protest prompted a short break.
Islamic preacher Safwat Hegazi asked the NDP figures to leave in order for the session, held at the Cairo International Convention and Exhibition Centre, to continue without disturbance.
“The young men of the session, some of whom are from the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition, had some reservations about the conference,” said Hegazi. “They were considering walking away because of the attendance of some NDP members.”
Order was restored somewhat but several political movements did depart from the session, including the April 6 Youth Movement and the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition.
Ahmed Maher, founder and general coordinator of April 6 Youth Movement, told Ahram Online: “We withdrew due to the lack of organization and because the same old methods were being applied in the National Dialogue, which will get us nowhere.
“Most importantly, we were upset by the attendance of National Democratic Party figures and other disciples of the former regime, such as [controversial lawyer] Mortada Mansour, [veteran TV presenter] Mofid Fawzi and [Ghad Party president ] Mousa Mostafa Mousa [among others].”
Khaled Tellema, member of the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition, said: “This is not the right place for us. Our place is in Tahrir Square on Friday 27 May [when the second revolution should begin].”
The National Dialogue is designed as a dialogue between a loose coalition of political groups and the interim government. It is conducted by former Prime Minister, Abdel Aziz Hegazi.
A number of pivotal political, economic and cultural issues are on the agenda in the first three-day session, which was attended by interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
Sharaf kicked off the session by giving an “improvised” speech, stressing that he would not interfere in the National Dialogue, but would support it and ensure the implementation of its results. “The National Dialogue is based on three principles the revolution has always called for: freedom, democracy and social equality,” he said.
Hegazi also gave a speech, saying that all “suggested laws by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces should be discussed with the citizens before being enacted.”
The National Dialogue was postponed after several groups, including Al-Wafd party, refused to participate, insisting that the demands of the revolution first be fulfilled.