Sisi invites Egypt's political parties for ‎dialogue Monday
Gamal Essam El-Din, Sunday 11 Jan 2015
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has finally taken the ‎step of inviting the country's ‎political parties for a meeting Monday, following similar meetings with other sectors of society


After seven months in office, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ‎has decided to meet with leaders of the ‎country's political parties including the opposition, a few months before Egypt's first parliamentary elections since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The chairmen of several ‎political parties told Ahram Online Sunday ‎that El-Sisi's presidential office contacted them by ‎phone, asking them to attend a meeting with the president Monday at the presidential palace in ‎east Cairo's district of Heliopolis.‎

Chairman of the liberal Reform and ‎Development Party, Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, ‎told Ahram Online that he had received a phone call ‎from the presidential office, inviting ‎him to a dialogue with El-Sisi on the ‎country's political and democratic future.‎

Constitution Party spokesman Khaled ‎Dawood confirmed that party head ‎Hala Shukrallah also received the same ‎invitation.‎

"She will not be able to attend because she will ‎be on a pre-scheduled visit to Geneva, but she ‎asked the president's office that one of her ‎deputies attend on her behalf," he said.‎

During his visit to Kuwait last week, ‎El-Sisi told editors of a number of local ‎newspapers he would meet with leaders of Egypt's ‎political parties this month to discuss the ‎country's upcoming parliamentary elections and ‎the period beyond them. ‎‎

"I know they were not 100 per cent satisfied with ‎the new election laws, but they must realise that ‎if they insisted that things should always be ‎perfect there would be no need to move a step ‎beyond them," El-Sisi said, also expressing ‎hopes that the political parties "will be able to ‎forge strong electoral alliances capable of ‎creating a powerful and vibrant parliament at the ‎end."‎

Officials from political parties said that ‎although their anticipated meeting with El-Sisi "came late", it will be a good chance to ‎exchange views on the country's political and ‎democratic future.

"We were surprised and even ‎disappointed that El-Sisi was keen to meet with ‎all sectors of society, including media ‎representatives, whom he met more than once, ‎but he always declined to meet with the country's ‎political leaders," said Sadat.‎

Meeting objective

Political parties, however, differed over the ‎objective of the meeting.

Sadat said: "As far as I ‎understand from the invitation, the president has ‎worked out an agenda he wants to discuss with ‎political leaders, but I hope that this agenda will ‎be open so as not to be confined to the ‎upcoming parliamentary polls or the battle ‎against terrorism."

He added: "It should rather extend to ‎include other local sensitive issues such as ‎the reshuffle of provincial governors, and the protest ‎and NGOs laws. I ‎also hope that such meetings will be ‎held on a regular basis and then evolve into a ‎kind of national dialogue."‎

‎“We have a lot to demands. However, I don’t think ‎that a meeting with this number of attendants ‎and political backgrounds and interests would ‎actually reach a concrete conclusion,” said ‎Dawood.‎

Sources said the invitation was extended to most ‎political parties, including the ones which have ‎been vocal in criticising El-Sisi since he came to ‎office in June 2014 .

These include a mix of ‎revolutionary liberal and leftist parties, such as ‎the Constitution Party, founded by high-profile ex-UN diplomat ‎Mohamed ElBaradei. ‎

The Strong Egypt Party, headed by former Muslim ‎Brotherhood figure Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, ‎was also invited.‎

The ‎Constitution Party has sternly criticised Egypt's new ‎election laws, insisting that they will ‎lead to the resurrection of Mubarak's defunct ‎ruling party and help them dominate political life ‎again. They asked El-Sisi several times for a ‎dialogue on the election laws.‎

The Constitution Party ‎has not yet announced its final position over whether to participate in the elections.

Younis Makhyoun, chairman of the ‎ultraconservative Salafist Al-Nour Party, said ‎he is keen to join the meeting with El-Sisi after ‎the president's office extended him an ‎invitation Sunday.

The Salafist party, which is ‎not on good terms with most liberal and leftist ‎parties even though it is the only Islamist party ‎that supported the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood leader and former president Morsi, earlier announced that it will run for ‎election in all seats.‎

Hossam Al-Khouli, spokesman for the Wafd ‎Party, said the party's chairman Al-Sayed Al-‎Badawi was “on top of the list of invitees.” ‎‎

"Members of the Egyptian Al-Wafd electoral ‎alliance were invited and they will attend the ‎meeting with El-Sisi," said Al-Khouli.‎

The Wafd alliance includes the Wafd Party, the ‎Egyptian Social Democratic Party led by ‎Mohamed Abul-Ghar, the Reform and ‎Development Party led by Al-Sadat, the ‎Conservative Party led by Akmal Qortam, and ‎the Awareness Party led by chairman of Ahly ‎Sporting Club Mahmoud Taher.‎

Yehia Qadri, deputy chairman of the National ‎Movement Party, said leaders of the Egyptian ‎Front electoral alliance, of which his party is a ‎member, would attend the meeting with El-Sisi ‎after they received invitations Sunday. ‎‎

"As far as I understand, President El-Sisi wants ‎to discuss a certain agenda with political leaders ‎and I hope the meeting will be fruitful," said ‎Qadri.‎

Nabil Zaki, spokesman for the leftist ‎Tagammu Party, said El-Sisi's invitation was a ‎progressive step. "El-Sisi should realise that ‎political stability in Egypt will never be complete ‎without serious dialogue with all political ‎factions, relinquishing Mubarak-style rule ‎that was based on monopolising power and ‎marginalising secular political forces."‎

"I hope that he meeting was ‎not designed in advance to include a fixed ‎agenda. I also share those who want the ‎meeting to be open, aiming to put all political ‎issues on the table, especially as it comes ‎before the parliamentary polls."‎

Zaki said El-Sisi's insistence that he will not set ‎up his own political party is a good sign. "He ‎must know that the people revolted in 2011 not ‎only to remove Mubarak from office and prevent hereditary rule by his son Gamal, but also to ‎get rid of what used to be called 'the president's ‎own party,' the former National Democratic ‎Party," he said.‎

Mohamed Abu-Ghar, chairman of the Egyptian ‎Social Democratic Party, said as far as he ‎knows, “there is no fixed agenda for the (El-Sisi) ‎meeting." ‎

"The Egyptian Wafd coalition will ‎hold a meeting Sunday to prepare an agenda ‎for discussion with El-Sisi. The president should ‎give guarantees that the upcoming parliamentary ‎polls will be held in an atmosphere of integrity ‎and transparency."‎

El-Sisi's anticipated meeting with political ‎leaders Monday comes a few days after ‎Egypt's Higher Electoral Commission (HEC) ‎announced that the country's long-delayed ‎parliamentary polls will be held in March.

‎The commission announced 8 January that ‎the two-stage polls will finally kick off on 21 ‎March and end on 7 May.‎

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/120043.aspx