During a news briefing at the National Training Academy (NTA) to mark the end of the first day of the dialogue, Diaa Rashwan, the general coordinator of the National Dialogue, stressed that "those who have planned, executed, or incited acts of terrorism" are excluded from the dialogue.
"The dialogue is open for all except those who have blood on their hands, topped by the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group, rejecters of Egypt's 2014 constitution," Rashwan said.
He stressed that "there is no 'red lines' in the national dialogue .. the dialogue is open [for all opinions] in the interests of the people .. and all suggestions will be submitted to the president."
Rashwan announced that 17 members of the Board of Trustees of the National Dialogue attended the dialogue's opening session, noting that their role is confined to moderating the national dialogue without interfering into the issues under debate.
He explained that decisions were agreed upon by consensus of the 17 members who took part in today's sessions.
The bylaws document contains 19 articles and stipulates the role of the Board of Trustees of the National Dialogue and its subcommittees and activities, Rashwan said.
The second document stipulates the code of conduct and ethics during the dialogue and will be also posted later on the official website of the national dialogue, Rashwan added.
The dialogue's Board of Trustees will hold the second meeting on 19 July, where it will continue forming the subcommittees and review proposals of agenda, he announced.
In a news briefing at the inaugural session of the Board of Trustees of the National Dialogue's meeting earlier on Tuesday, Rashwan reaffirmed that the national dialogue called for by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi will address national priorities aiming to reach common grounds among participants, including political, partisan, and syndicate forces.
During the session, the Board of Trustees reviewed details and regulations of the dialogue’s upcoming activities.
The session, which was covered by the media and aired live on television, was attended by 15 of the 19 members of the Board of Trustees.
The Board of Trustees is comprised of parliamentarians, journalists, professors, human rights lawyers, and officials. Its tasks includes the coordination of the multi-directional and multi-stage dialogue. It will also take the final decisions on the dialogue’s preliminary results to be submitted to the president.
The National Dialogue was called for by President El-Sisi during the annual Egyptian Family Iftar banquet on 26 April for “all political forces without any exceptions or discrimination."
The president promised to attend the final stages of the dialogue.
During today's meeting, Rashwan, also the head the Journalists’ Syndicate, said that the dialogue is open for all political, partisan, and syndicate forces to discuss national priorities.
However, those who had incited or participated in violent acts will be excluded, Rashwan added.
He noted that the dialogue should yield specific legislative or procedural proposals to be submitted to the president, adding that all proposals submitted within the framework of the dialogue will be taken into consideration without exception.
A myriad of political parties and forces have welcomed and agreed to join the National Dialogue.
Over 96,000 citizens applied to participate in the dialogue, according to Rashwan.
"We are starting today to found the New Republic through the national dialogue upon an invitation of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who asserted the importance of launching the dialogue for a modern and civil democratic country," Rashwan underlined.
He noted that the political powers and unions are a main part of the Egyptian people, but they do not represent all people.
The coordinator general clarified that there is a large majority that are neither allied with the government or against it and they are all invited to take part in the dialogue.
He stressed that many groups of Egyptians have the right to participate in the dialogue through their ideas and suggestions.
Priorities are not only political, but also economic, sports, cultural, and more, Rashwan pointed out. He added that these priorities will be referred to the political leadership to take decisions on them.
The Egyptian people depend a lot on the execution of this dialogue, especially since its participants are supposed to express most sectors of society, he added.
Rashwan affirmed that each phase of the dialogue should have outcomes so that people can see achievements being accomplished.
Various members of the Board of Trustees expressed their opinions on topics that should be prioritised during the dialogue while others submitted proposals for immediate steps needed to be taken to ensure the success of the dialogue.
Since the dialogue was called by the president in April, online registration was opened and the dialogue’s administration has received tens of thousands of proposals from citizens, public figures, and entities, said Mahmoud Fawzy, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR).
Political parties, civil society organisations, parliamentarians, syndicates, and ministries and public authorities have also submitted proposals, Fawzy said.
A total of 96,533 forms have been filled out online by citizens from all governorates to share their proposals and visions within the framework of the national dialogue with Cairo being on the top of the governorates in terms of the turnout, Fawzy explained.
Proposals sent by citizens included political, social, and economic issues, he said.
Fawzy added that the NTA, which is tasked with managing the dialogue, sent 500 invitations to various entities over the last period.
During the meeting, Rasha Ragheb, the executive director of the NTA, affirmed that the academy will transparently manage the dialogue and at an equal distance from all parties as per the president’s directives.
Who should be excluded?
Journalist Abdel-Azim Hammad, a member of the Civil Democratic Movement, said that the movement endorses the exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood or any other group that uses violence.
On Sunday, President El-Sisi stressed in a meeting with media professionals that the call for a national dialogue is meant to bring together all intellectuals, unions, and political parties except for one faction that resorted to killing, referencing the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood.
During the meeting, Gouda Abdel-Khalek, professor of economics and a former social solidarity minister, said that those who try to “involve religion in politics” should also be excluded until they abandon this idea as the dialogue paves the way to a modern democratic civil nation.
Journalist Mohamed Salmawy, another member of the Board of Trustees, also affirmed that those who do not believe in modern civil states under the 2014 Constitution should be excluded from the dialogue even if they did not commit violence. Salmawy argued that the 2014 Constitution, which separates religion from politics, should be the reference for the dialogue.
Releasing "prisoners of conscience"
Hammad said that the sessions should start only after the release of "prisoners of conscience" so that they can also participate in the dialogue.
Amr Hashem Rabie, deputy head of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS), also said the issue of releasing pretrial detainees and pardoning those who received sentences is a "very fundamental" issue in order to start the dialogue.
He also affirmed the need for a legislative amendment to several laws that are used in the arrest of many.
Political dialogue, for everyone
Human rights lawyer Negad El-Borai urged the other members of the Board of Trustees to abandon some of their previously held political stances to be able to reach consensus with different political forces.
El-Borai warned that consensual solutions should not come at the expense of freedoms.
He affirmed that the dialogue is “mainly political” urging the board to “not be tempted to drown the dialogue with sub-issues that do not lead to anything."
While Rashwan suggested that the dialogue sessions be broadcasted live, El-Borai said that the board meetings should be conducted in a calm environment, and meetings’ results should be announced to the public.
For his part, MP Talaat Abdel-Kawy, president of the General Federation of NGOs and Foundations, said that all Egyptians, including youth, should feel that they participate in charting the future of the nation by participating in the dialogue.
Fatma Khafagy, the coordinator of the Arab States Civil Society Organisations and Feminists Network , said that she is proud that women represent a quarter of the board’s members.
Political researcher and author Samir Morcos, also a member of the Board of Trustees, hailed the dialogue and argued that it is the beginning of a new stage of politics in Egypt.
Morcos affirmed the importance of addressing the youth, noting that 80 percent of the Egyptian population are under 40 years of age.