El-Sisi to hold national dialogue with representatives of 30 political parties

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 27 May 2015

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and leading officials from across ‎Egypt's political spectrum are set to meet on Wednesday to ‎discuss the future of parliamentary elections

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Photo: Reuters)

For the second time in a year, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ‎invited leaders of Egypt's mainstream political parties for a ‎meeting. A number of political figures said "the ‎invitation is a good step in the right direction although it came ‎as a big surprise and too late." ‎

Anwar El-Sadat, chairman of the liberal Reform and ‎Development party, told Ahram Online that he expects "the ‎meeting [on Wednesday] will be like a national dialogue between El-Sisi and ‎opposition politicians over a number of current issues such as ‎the future of parliamentary elections, El-Sisi's visit to Germany ‎next week, the death verdict against former Islamist president ‎Mohamed Morsi on 16 May and foreign reactions to it, and the ‎official opening of the new Suez Canal project on 6 August," said ‎Sadat.‎

In Sadat's words: "I think the meeting will be like an earlier one ‎held last January. It is a kind of an open national dialogue in ‎which all exchange views without a certain agenda," said Sadat.

‎Sadat, however, said he believes that "the repeated delay in ‎parliamentary elections" is the main reason for the ‎meeting. "There has been growing discontent among political ‎parties in recent weeks due to the repeated delay in ‎parliamentary elections and the failure of El-Sisi to respond ‎positively to unified amendments proposed by the opposition to ‎‎ the elections laws," said Sadat, expecting that "El-Sisi will seize ‎the meeting to give his official response."‎

In a statement sent to parliamentary reporters on Tuesday, ‎Sadat blasted El-Sisi, asking him to hold a public referendum on ‎the constitution and parliament. "What is clear about El-Sisi's ‎first year in office is that he and prime minister Ibrahim ‎Mahlab's government have shown no interest in political ‎reform, no respect for the constitution, no desire to foster a ‎vibrant civil life," said Sadat's statement, adding that "if El-Sisi is ‎not interested in implementing the constitution or the country ‎having a parliament, okay let him invite the people to vote on this ‎in a public referendum."‎

Informed sources said the invitation to the meeting was ‎extended to around 30 political parties, including the ‎liberal Wafd, the leftist Tagammu, the National Movement ‎party, and the Salafist Nour party. Other parties like the ‎Conservative Party led by oil business tycoon Akmal Qortam, ‎the Egyptian Social Democratic Party led by political activist and ‎doctor Mohamed Abu Ghar and the Free Egyptians Party ‎founded by telecommunications business tycoon Naguib Sawiris.‎

Nagi El-Shehabi, chairman of the Generation (Geel) party, told ‎Ahram Online that "all political parties expect that the future ‎of parliamentary elections will be the main subject of debate ‎during the meeting."

"Political parties have become worried ‎about the future of polls and for how long Egypt will remain ‎without a parliament," said El-Shehabi, wondering that "all have ‎become confused which election laws will be implemented: the ‎ones drafted by a government committee or the ones drafted by ‎a number of political parties last month."

"As far as we know, the ‎government-drafted laws were referred to the State Council's ‎department of legislation and fatwas last month to be revised in ‎constitutional and legal terms," said El-Shehabi, wondering "why ‎the council has not so far finalised the revision process? The minister for parliamentary affairs, Ibrahim El-Heneidy, said last ‎month that the revision would take only ten days, but we now ‎have more than one month without clear results in sight," said ‎El-Shehabi.‎

Al-Ahram newspaper indicated on Tuesday that "the council's ‎revision of the laws was delayed because its chairman, judge ‎Magdi El-Agati, was hospitalised from a heart attack." ‎‎

"After judge El-Agati came back to the office this week, the ‎department has begun revising the law on the division of ‎electoral constituencies and next Saturday it will begin ‎examining the other two election laws: on the exercise of ‎political rights and the house of representatives."‎

Hussein Abdel-Razek, a leading Tagammu official, said "the ‎meeting is a good step and should lead to tangible results. The ‎meeting should clarify positions on a number of delicate issues, ‎on top of which the necessity of opening the way for ‎parliamentary elections," said Abdel-Razek.‎

Yehia Qadri, deputy chairman of the National Movement Party, ‎said "most political parties agree that it is not a problem that ‎parliamentary polls be delayed until election laws gaining ‎national consensus are reached. What is necessary for political ‎parties right now is that once parliament is formed, it remains ‎immune to any future constitutional challenges," said Qadri. ‎

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