The heavy presence of former members of the now-dismantled National Democratic Party and old regime figures has evidently marred the opening session of the National Dialogue, stirring up controversy across the political spectrum.
Some youths took the podium and called for the departure of the ex-NDP members, chanting: “We do not want the [National Democratic] Party, even if we will be shot with bullets for saying so.” They objected to the presence of figures such as controversial lawyer Mortada Mansour, veteran TV presenter Mofid Fawzi and Ghad Party president Mousa Mostafa Mousa.
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. They agreed to depart but left the session in disarray.
Several political movements also left, 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.
Khaled Tellema, member of the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition, said: “It's completely inappropriate to see people who tried to kill us in the same room—the NDP members and former disciples of the old regime. They know themselves.”
He also criticized interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf: "He promised that no more laws would be introduced without discussion with political forces after the new parties law and the legislation that penalize sit-ins, but then a new political parties law was suddenly enacted."
On the other hand, the Revolution Youths said they would not boycott the National Dialogue, although they condemned the presence of former members of the National Democratic Party.
Amr Hamzawy, head of the yet-to-be-launched party Misr Al-Horreya (Freedom Egypt), was disgruntled with the chaos in the opening session of the National Dialogue. He said during the session: “We don’t want the dialogue that Egypt has been waiting for to turn into a chaotic event.”
“If there is a mistake we can fix it. A committee will be immediately formed to look at the list of attendees and prevent this mistake from happening again.
“We need to focus on the dialogue itself and not become distracted by meaningless arguments.”
The National Dialogue is designed to be a dialogue between a loose coalition of political groups and the interim government. It is conducted by former Prime Minister, Abdel Aziz Hegazi.