In the spirit of 30 June

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 6 Jul 2022

Reassembling the political alliance of 30 June is high on the agenda of the national dialogue that opened in Cairo on Tuesday.

Diaa Rashwan
Diaa Rashwan


Egypt’s pro-government and opposition figures and parties are holding talks on the nation’s top political and economic concerns. The national dialogue, promised by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi fewer than three months ago, held its opening session on Tuesday against a background of hopes, scepticism, and anticipation.

This was the first such meeting since 2016 when President Al-Sisi met with the country’s intellectuals and political figures to discuss priorities, including certain liberties over which critics were expressing concerns and plans for the economic reform agenda being launched at the time.

The national dialogue’s 19-member Board of Trustees met to review the details and timetable of a series of meetings that will be held after Eid Al-Adha holidays. In a press conference held on the launch of the first meeting, Press Syndicate chairman and coordinator of the dialogue Diaa Rashwan said that Tuesday’s meeting of the board finalised the details of the working group and the agenda.

He said that the public would be kept informed of the progress of the dialogue “in a transparent manner”. At the end of the dialogue debates, he added, recommendations would be referred to the president, the House of Representatives, the lower house of Egypt’s parliament, and the government so they could be implemented.

“If the recommendations require legislative amendments, they will be passed to the House, and if they require executive steps, they will be referred to the president and the government,” Rashwan noted.

He stated that “the dialogue will be held in a number of stages, with the recommendations reached at the end of each stage being referred to the president. This will give people the sense that something concrete is being achieved.”

The call and preparations for the national dialogue have been associated with wide debate about its objectives and potential participants. Officials have said on record that the dialogue is designed to pave the way for the new republic that President Al-Sisi has promised. Earlier this week, Al-Sisi said that those who were in office during the massive demonstrations of the 30 June Revolution would not be invited to the dialogue.

Al-Sisi said that on 3 July 2013 he had proposed to the then ruling regime that it should listen to the demands of the protesters calling for early presidential elections. However, the office-holders of the time had refused to take part in any political dialogue.

“One faction will not be invited to the present dialogue because it preferred the language of terrorism to the language of dialogue,” Al-Sisi said, adding that “since you chose violence and the hijacking of the country to serve your own interests, it would be meaningless to hold a dialogue with you.”

At the start of the dialogue on Tuesday, Rashwan said that “today we are opening a new stage in Egypt’s republican system, with no faction excluded from the dialogue, except those who resort to, incite, or participate in violence and those who refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the state and the 2014 constitution, even as we are aiming to create a strong state with a functioning constitution.”

In a press conference on the same day, Rashwan told reporters that the “organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood is not invited to the national dialogue.

 “Those who oppose the constitution and the legitimacy of the regime are effectively calling for a coup and cannot be included in the dialogue,” he said.

Rashwan added that “the main job of the national dialogue is to resurrect the spirit of the 30 June alliance.” It should “not only give room to all forces to voice their opinions on Egypt’s political, economic, security, and cultural conditions,” but also help to provide answers to some pressing problems.

He pointed out that the objective of the dialogue is to create common ground among all the political forces in order to reach a unified agenda on reform.

“The Egyptian people have high hopes that this dialogue will help to achieve many of their aspirations and goals,” he added.

Dialogue secretary-general Mahmoud Fawzi said that more than 400 invitations had been extended to political parties, syndicates, unions, and public figures, while delegations from more than 25 political parties had visited the National Training Academy (NTA) where the dialogue is being held to present their proposals on the agenda.

“Proposals submitted online number 69,532, in addition to the 15,000 received in print. We have also received more than 793 text messages and 435 WhatsApp messages from all the governorates, with Cairo at their head. This reflects the very positive response to the dialogue,” Fawzi said.

“We were keen to make sure that all factions were represented in the dialogue, but in particular the invitations targeted civil-society organisations, the political and intellectual elite, journalists, media people, MPs and senators, businessmen, human rights organisations, representatives of Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, opposition figures, research centres, and universities.

“The dialogue’s secretariat-general has been divided into four teams, with each responsible for organising and coordinating the meetings of the national dialogue,” he added.

Fawzi said that calls for political reform had come out on top of the proposals submitted to the dialogue’s secretariat-general. “Most want the laws regulating the political parties and elections to be reformed,” he said, adding that “other key proposals focus on human rights, local councils, and legislative reform.”

Abdel-Azim Hammad, a member of the Civilian Movement, a loose political alliance of opposition figures and parties, said the movement wanted all those detained for political reasons to be released, adding that this would help it to participate in the dialogue.

Gouda Abdel-Khalek, a former minister of social solidarity and a leading figure in the left-wing Tagammu Party, said that “political reforms should top the agenda of the dialogue.”

“It is high time that Egypt exited from political stagnation,” he said.

Negad Al-Borai, a human rights activist, stressed that the dialogue “should focus on political issues and should not be allowed to go into minor everyday problems, as this could cause us to become bogged down.

Prominent writer Mohamed Salmawy said that “the fact that an overwhelming number of Egyptians gave a positive response to the dialogue gives it the required legitimacy, not to mention the fact that the call for the dialogue was made by the legitimately elected president.”

Salmawy said that the 2014 constitution should be the main reference for the dialogue, “as each article speaks the language of a modern, civil, and democratic state standing up against all forms of violence.”  

Amr Hashem Rabie, a senior researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said there should be a time limit on the dialogue. “We want a dialogue that lasts for no more than two months and not for six months,” Rabie said, adding that “it is clear that political reforms are those that will lead to reforms in other sectors, and these are what we should focus on.”

Rashwan said at the press conference that he is hopeful that the dialogue will lead to greater freedom of the press and presidential pardons leading to the release of imprisoned activists.

Following his original call for the national dialogue, President Al-Sisi signed presidential pardons for several activists. At the same time, the prosecution released over 100 held in pre-trial detention.

The next session of the dialogue is scheduled for 19 July.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 July, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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