The 19-member Board of Trustees in charge of overseeing the National Dialogue proposed by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi held a preparatory meeting on 3 August, reports Gamal Essam El-Din.
The meeting ended with the decision to form seven subcommittees to coordinate the dialogue’s economic agenda, including inflation; public debt, the budget deficit and fiscal reform; general investment priorities and state ownership; local and foreign private investment; industry, agriculture and food security, and social justice.
The board’s secretary-general Mahmoud Fawzi said that the meeting concluded the first stage of preparations for the National Dialogue process. A second stage of preparations will begin on 27 August when the board meets for the fifth time to choose members and rapporteurs for all of the committees and subcommittees, and prepare the agenda and topics for discussion during the dialogue.
According to Fawzi, the board took time over determining the priorities of the dialogue’s political agenda because the majority of political forces invited to participate deemed it the most important aspect of the discussions.
“Members of the dialogue’s political committee must be selected in such a way as to ensure all political forces are represented,” he said.
MP Mahmoud Sami, parliamentary spokesperson of the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the preparations for the National Dialogue had so far satisfied a majority of political forces and that the Board of Trustees has shown itself capable of formulating political, social and economic priorities in line with the proposals submitted by political parties.
Sami is now hoping “discussion of topics, particularly on the political agenda, will be open, free and without a pre-fixed time limit.”
“On the political agenda, opposition and loyalist forces differ greater over the amendments needed to current legislation. The differences will take time to be resolved,” he said.
In response, Fawzi noted that it will be up to the board to decide whether the meetings of committees mandated with discussing dialogue have a fixed timeframe or not.
What is important, he said, is that preparations are thorough, that all the issues that will be discussed are identified in advance, and that the debates are informed by expert opinion. It will then be up to the committees’ rapporteurs to ensure that discussions progress in a disciplined manner.
“I think political forces now see that President Al-Sisi is very serious about the National Dialogue, and wants all forces, whether opposition or loyalist, to have their say.”
Suleiman Wahdan, parliamentary spokesperson of the Wafd, agrees that the first stage of preparations progressed smoothly.
“That the Board of Trustees includes representatives from both opposition and loyalist parties resulted in it prioritising the right subjects for debate,” he said.
Wahdan told the Weekly the code of conduct devised by the board, including the guidelines that will govern the dialogue’s sessions, will allow “all participants to express their views openly and freely”. What his party most hopes for, he added, is that the dialogue leads Egypt into a new era of political openness and democratisation.
“We all have a responsibility to make the dialogue a success.”
During a tour of the Military Academy on Saturday, President Al-Sisi said “it is essential that we listen to one other, and that all factions engage in constructive discussions of the issues that are of major concern to the people.”
“It is important to listen to different views and opinions. Difference, after all, is a fact of life.”
According to Fawzi, the only red line when it comes to the dialogue’s discussions, will be changes to the constitution.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.