Timetabling the national dialogue

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 30 Aug 2022

The 19-member Board of Trustees responsible for preparing the national dialogue proposed by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in April is set to resume meetings.

Timetabling the national dialogue
Timetabling the national dialogue


The next meeting of the Board of Trustees, which is the fifth, is expected to focus on choosing rapporteurs for the dialogue’s committees and subcommittees and finalise the agenda and topics for discussion.

Mahmoud Fawzi, the board’s secretary-general, indicated that when the next meeting convenes the board will have completed the selection of committee members and have set the priorities for discussions on the political, economic, and social tracks.

The subcommittees, said Fawzi, will coordinate discussions on the exercise of political rights, parliamentary representation and political parties; local councils; human rights and public liberties; education; health; family and social cohesion; culture and national identity; inflation and high prices; public debt, the budget deficit and fiscal reform; general investment priorities and state ownership; private investment (local and foreign); industry; agriculture and food security; and social justice.

In an interview Fawzi revealed that the board had endorsed Article 18 of its internal bylaws. “The article states that the board is authorised to form subcommittees whenever necessary and also name a rapporteur and an assistant rapporteur for each subcommittee, and that the members of the national dialogue’s Board of Trustees have the right to attend any of the meetings of the subcommittees,” he said.

The secretariat-general, Fawzi continued, “is still receiving proposals on the dialogue’s agenda.

“We consider each proposal, and all citizens have the right to send to us suggestions via social media.”

Meanwhile, political analysts have complained that slow progress in preparations for the national dialogue could impact negatively on the public’s view of the process. In an article last week Ziad Bahaa-Eldin wrote that “the continued delay in starting the national dialogue is a cause for concern since it could lead to a loss of the enthusiasm and momentum required for success”.

“That more than three and a half months have passed since President Al-Sisi called for the dialogue on 26 April is a discouraging sign. The process needs to be speeded up.”

Bahaa-Eldin argued that “given Egypt’s political environment and the restrictions surrounding it, proposals that might lead to its improvement should top the dialogue agenda.” He also expressed the fear that the substance of discussions was in danger of getting lost in questions of procedure.

Sayed Abdel-Aal, leader of the Tagammu Party, also told Al-Ahram Weekly that the national dialogue needs to start soon.

In response Emad Hussein, a member of the Board of Trustees and editor-in-chief of Al-Shorouk newspaper, pointed out that President Al-Sisi issued the call for dialogue on 26 April, during Ramadan, which was then followed by a 10-day holiday in observation of Eid Al-Adha. He also stressed that “the Board of Trustees includes opposition and loyalist forces” and that it had taken time to hammer out a consensus on the agenda of discussions.

Diaa Rashwan, general coordinator of the national dialogue, has accused the Muslim Brotherhood and its media mouthpieces of attempting to undermine the national dialogue.

Rashwan points out that secular opposition figures who are living abroad had been invited to participate in the dialogue as long as they have not been implicated in terrorist activities.

“I want to make it clear that secular opposition figures who want to return to Egypt have already been invited to participate,” he said.

Rashwan praised President Al-Sisi’s pardoning of jailed political activists, saying “it shows that the 26 April call for national dialogue to set the country’s political and economic priorities for the next decade is serious and reflects a wish to listen to all views.”

Members of the Presidential Pardon Committee revealed this week that a new list of jailed activists eligible for release had been compiled. Kamal Abu Eita, a former minister of labour and a member of the committee, said “state institutions are currently reviewing the lists of prisoners to check whether any have links to terrorist activities” and “we can expect a large number of prisoners to be released in the coming days”.

MP Tarek Al-Khouli, another member of the committee, confirmed “a large number of political prisoners will be released very soon in order to create a favourable climate for the national dialogue.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 25 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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