Egypt interim government starts talks, without major political parties

Dina Samak , Tuesday 29 Mar 2011

As Egypt’s interim government sets agenda and dates for national dialogue the political parties that called for such dialogue say they know nothing about it

Al Gamal

Egypt’s interim government called for the new national dialogue meeting to start tomorrow, Wednesday at 6pm, but failed to invite some key political parties. The national dialogue will be headed by Yehia Al Gamal, the current deputy prime minister, according to the Egyptian cabinet of ministers. It includes 160 national figures representing different political groups and will be attended by a number of ministers to discuss the future of Egypt and the transitional period to the parliamentary and presidential elections. The national dialogue, which will start tomorrow, was a general demand by different political groups ever since the new government of Prime Minister Esam Sharaf came to power, however the political parties do not seem happy with the procedures.

"I met with the deputy prime minister today in his office," says George Ishak one of the founders of Kefaya movement, "and what I understood is that the meetings will be organised according to alphabetical order and that each meeting will be attended by 10 political figures."

Ishak, who will not be attending the first meeting, does not have a problem with the procedures, however, he says that the dialogue itself comes very late.

"What are we going to discuss?" he wonders. "The new law for the formation of political parties has already been issued and the constitutional declaration is due any minute."

The list of political figures invited to the dialogue has not yet been announced, however, those that are excluded know that their names are not on the list, as they did not get an invitation.

Ayman Noor, the leader of Al Ghad party, who announced earlier that he will be running for presidency, says that he did not receive any information about the dialogue.

"We heard that there is a document that will be subject to discussion, however we do not know what is in this document," adds Noor, "and even if we receive an invitation now we will not be able to talk about it with the members of the party to create a position."

Al Ghad party is not the only one that was not included in the dialogue. After a series of meetings the major opposition parties before the revolution, Al Wafd, Al Tagamou and the Nasserite party issued a joint statement criticising the way the interim government is handling the national dialogue.

"The government did not contact any party to discuss the national dialogue, and the fact that they are preparing a document is very surprising," says the statement.

"The dialogue is [supposed to be] about political parties and groups getting together to agree on common demands," says Nabil Zaki, the spokesman of Al Tagamou party, "but this has to happen according to decent measures that do not exclude anyone," he adds.

Even if the talking points of the mysterious document are announced today the Wafd party does not see this as enough. "The political parties should not find out about the scheduled talks from the media. We should have enough time to discuss what is offered by the government with our rank and file," says Foad Badrawy, general secretary of Al Wafd party. "We can never go to such talks representing [just] ourselves, since we are a democratic party and these decisions have to be taken in a democratic manner," he asserts.

Al Karama party, was also not invited to the national dialogue, does not even know and one who is, says Amin Eskandsar. "This is not only a belittling of all the political forces who have struggled for democracy in Egypt for the past decade, but also reflects a lack of seriousness in dealing with the current moment," he adds.

The government, nonetheless, seems determined to start the dialogue, emphasising that any deficiencies can be prevailed over once the process starts. 

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