The 19-member Board of Trustees preparing for the National Dialogue proposed by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi held a meeting on Sunday.
“We will hold final meetings this week, after which the National Dialogue will be ready to start,” said Diaa Rashwan, the dialogue’s general coordinator and head of the Press Syndicate.
Gamal Al-Kishki, a member of the board and editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram Al-Araby, said Rashwan will soon hold a press conference to announce full details of the dialogue and the schedule of debates.
Independent daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm cited informed sources as saying that the dialogue will begin on 14 January. It will have 19 subcommittees (five political, eight economic, and six social) that will conduct debates. Each subcommittee has a maximum of 30 participants, drawn from public figures.
“We will announce the names of the members of each subcommittee, the lists of participants and the schedule and timetable of debates within days,” said Rashwan.
Rashwan made clear that “the recommendations passed by the National Dialogue will be referred to President Al-Sisi who has said that if they require legislative amendments they will be referred to the House of Representatives, and if they need executive procedures, they will be submitted to the government.”
There have been a lot of complaints in political circles that preparations for the dialogue have moved too slowly.
When President Al-Sisi announced his proposal for a national dialogue for the first time last April there was a lot of enthusiasm and optimism in political circles but after eight months enthusiasm has waned and been replaced by disappointment,” said Ziaad Bahaaeddin, a former deputy prime minister.
Rashwan said that while many people had wanted the National Dialogue to begin before the end of 2022, the Board of Trustees had opted to put the groundwork necessary to ensure debates are serious and focused.
Economist Gouda Abdel-Khalek, a former minister of supply, said “the board has been keen to ensure participants and members of the 19 subcommittees are experts and that representatives from across the political spectrum are included.”
Abdel-Khalek, meanwhile, indicated that economic issues are expected to take the lion’s share of debates and public interest. “With a view to the global economic crisis and financial meltdown triggered by the war in Ukraine, citizens have voiced a lot of concern over the economy and want the National Dialogue to focus on economic issues,” he said.
MP Talaat Abdel-Qawi, another member of the Board of Trustees, said political parties took a lot of time to select the names of their representatives, contributing to the delayed preparations.
“We also took time discussing whether government officials should attend the dialogue, eventually deciding it was important they do in order to provide us with the figures and statistics necessary for the economic debates,” he said.
MP Amira Saber revealed that the Board of Trustees have held 20 meetings so far.
“In these meetings, we drafted the main headlines under which the issues which will be discussed by subcommittees, selected the members of each subcommittee, and decided which government officials will attend the debates,” said Saber.
Rashwan welcomed this week’s decision of the Presidential Pardon Committee to release a further 27 pretrial detainees.
“The move offers yet more proof of the seriousness of the political leadership and authorities in paving the way for a constructive and positive dialogue,” he said n.
Semi-official statistics show that more than 1,500 prisoners were released in 2022, the majority pretrial detainees.
“The work of the Presidential Pardon Committee has laid the foundation for a fruitful dialogue and will make possible the implementation of President Al-Sisi’s vision for building a country based on freedom of speech, the rule of law and political rights,” concluded Rashwan.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 5 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly