Egypt's political impasse continues as dialogue shunned by opposition

Sherif Tarek , Monday 28 Jan 2013

The National Salvation Front refused to participate in the president's dialogue process citing a record of 'broken promises'; Morsi supporters say front prisoner of narrow interests

President Mohamed Morsi leads meeting in absence of the NSF (Photo: Egyptian presidential spokesman's Facebook page)

Sunday's renewed call for a national dialogue by President Mohamed Morsi has so far done little to put an end to Egypt's ongoing political deadlock, as the majority of opposition has once again rejected the initiative.

The National Salvation Front (NSF), a coalition including many leftist and liberal opposition parties and groups in Egypt, rejected Morsi's initiative at a press conference a few hours before the dialogue started Monday.

The NSF cited "unfulfilled demands" as the reason for their stance, with its leaders saying such a dialogue would be "useless under the status quo."

Similar demands were echoed shortly afterwards by the April 6 Youth Movement, another prominent opponent of the regime, which underlined the importance of three of the NSF's five demands: replacing the incumbent cabinet with a national salvation government, setting up a committee to amend the constitution (which was drafted by an Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly) and dismissing the Morsi-appointed prosecutor-general in favour of one to be chosen by the Supreme Judicial Council.

Despite the boycotts, the dialogue, as announced on presidential spokesman Yasser Ali's Facebook page, kicked off on Monday as planned. Opposition parties involved included the Ghad El-Thawra party and the Strong Egypt party – led by former presidential candidates Ayman Nour and Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh respectively.

Others involved in the dialogue process included Islamist ultra-conservative group Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, Emad El-Din Abdel Ghafour of the Salafist Watan Party, leading Muslim Brotherhood figure Saad El-Katatni, former Islamist presidential candidate Mohamed Selim El-Awa, and the Salafist Nour Party (represented by chairman Younes Makhioun.)

Earlier in the day, the Nour Party took a swipe at the NSF for its posture towards the dialogue, which was first called for by the National Defence Council on Saturday.

"The refusal of some of the opposition forces to take part in the national dialogue that President Mohamed Morsi has called for is a negative thing that reflects their lack of comprehension of [their] responsibility and the dangers befallen the nation," Galal Mora, the secretary-general of the Nour Party, said in a press release.

Mora believes those who opted to boycott the dialogue are "putting their personal interests ahead of the public's," and asked political forces to reverse their decision.

Speaking to Al-Jazeera channel, Seif Abdel-Fattah, a former political advisor of the president, blamed the NSF's "political immaturity," saying, "it hates the Brotherhood and does not love Egypt enough, and thus decided to take no part in the dialogue."

While announcing the NSF's refusal to participate in the dialogue, Constitution Party head Mohamed ElBaradei described as it "fake."

Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, another NSF leader, stated: "We met with Morsi previously, and all we got from the meeting was a dictatorial constitutional declaration. The second dialogue meeting did not accomplish anything either."

Violent clashes have been ongoing between police and protesters in a number of cities since Friday, which marked the second anniversary of Egypt's January 25 Revolution. At least 50 people across the nation have been reportedly killed in the violence at the time of writing.

The death toll rose dramatically in Port Said when a court on Saturday sentenced 21 Port Said residents to death for their involvement in last February's Port Said stadium disaster, in which scores of football fans were killed. Since then, the city has witnessed intense rioting, with residents accusing the central government of scapegoating and marginalising them.

Intermittent clashes remain ongoing in Cairo, Damanhour and Alexandria.

"Many missteps have led to the current situation…security measures will not solve the current crisis, but a political solution must be found," said ElBaradei.

In a statement on Saturday, the NSF said that it held Morsi responsible for the "excessive violence used by security forces against protesters," and demanded that a "neutral investigative committee be formed to punish those responsible for the bloodshed."

The umbrella group also demanded that the Muslim Brotherhood – from which Morsi hails – should be subject to the law after being a "main element in the country’s administration for almost a year with no legal or legitimate foundation."

The Islamist-dominated Shura Council mobilised earlier on Monday to swiftly ratify Morsi's new security measures, including the declaration of the state of emergency in the three Suez Canal governorates of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said; and granting armed forces judicial powers to "safeguard state institutions against saboteurs and restore security."

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