INTERVIEW: A multiplicity of voices

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 4 Jul 2022

Arab Nasserist Party Chairman Mohamed Al-Nimr, who last week presented the party’s proposals for the agenda of the national dialogue to the National Academy for Training, speaks with Gamal Essam El-Din about the party’s priorities.

A multiplicity of voices


How did you receive President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s call for national dialogue?

We welcomed the invitation to the national dialogue and hope it will open a new chapter in Egypt’s political history and lead to greater political freedoms. We want it to be a success, and want its recommendations to be implemented on the ground..

What issues did the Arab Nasserist Party’s proposals address?

The global economic crisis, triggered by the war in Ukraine, was the main factor behind President Al-Sisi’s call for a national dialogue, and the Nasserist Party believes the dialogue should focus on economic issues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of the war in Ukraine on the Egyptian economy. The Nasserist Party believes Egypt has to change priorities in order to weather the economic storms ahead. The war has shown that Egypt must focus on productive sectors, particularly industry and agriculture. We need to discuss how we can boost industrial and agricultural exports, reduce imports, rationalise spending, and introduce fiscal discipline and austerity measures. The Ukraine crisis has also shown we need to do more to achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production.

The party fears that recently announced plans to privatise state-owned entities will adversely affect the poor and as a party committed to social justice we want the dialogue to address ways of protecting the most vulnerable in society from the burden of economic reforms.

The focus on economic issues, however, should not be allowed to overshadow political reform. The dialogue needs to turn the page on political stagnation.

What is needed for the dialogue to succeed?

To be a success the dialogue should be held under the direct auspices of President Al-Sisi. The organisers need to ensure all participants are treated on equal basis, without discrimination. The dialogue cannot be restricted to the elite. It must include loyalist and opposition forces, elite and populist forces, and address the day-to-day issues of direct concern to people in the street. It cannot be confined to the air-conditioned corridors of Cairo but should extend to all of Egypt’s governorates.

Invitations should not be limited to political forces and the intellectual elite, but be extended to trade unions and professional syndicates. Representatives from every sector of society should participate, voicing their concerns and proposing solutions.

But you have suggested that the number of participants be limited to 100, with other forces participating through the media…

No. We want a national dialogue in which all political and economic forces participate. It should be clear from the start how long the dialogue will last, and what the mechanisms will be to implement its recommendations. The dialogue should, of course, be covered in detail by the media, and ordinary citizens be allowed to voice their opinions about its agenda.

What elements of political reform should the dialogue address?

How political reform is addressed will be central to the success of the dialogue. The current election law, which adopts a mix of the individual and party list systems, is a mess and should be scrapped. The laws regulating the performance of political parties should be also amended to give parties more freedom in the area of funding and organising activities and rallies. The dialogue also needs to open the door to greater media freedoms.

How do you feel about the National Academy for Training (NAT) organising the national dialogue conference?

We have no objection to the NAT. But the dialogue itself needs a highly qualified secretariat-general able to manage it in an efficient, professional, and neutral way. It needs to make the dialogue the talk of every citizen in Egypt, and be able to summarise the dialogue’s recommendations succinctly and coherently.

And how do you view the reactivating of the Presidential Pardon Committee?

This is a progressive step. We have repeatedly called for the file of political prisoners to be reopened. We want all those detained for political and freedom of opinion reasons to be released.

It is necessary to amend laws regulating pre-trial detention. No one should face detention for voicing opposition to the status quo. We have suffered too long from the authorities detaining opposition figures and need to move beyond such practices. Let me make it clear, though, that we support constructive opposition. Groups branded as terrorist organisations cannot be considered opposition forces. Indeed, the greater the margin of freedom for constructive and objective opposition, the greater the opportunity to protect the nation from terrorist ideologies and movements.

A version of this article appears in print in the 30 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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