National Dialogue will set new priorities
National Dialogue General Coordinator Diaa Rashwan will hold a press conference ahead of 3 May to announce details of dialogue sessions and answer questions.
According to the dialogue’s Secretary-General Mahmoud Fawzi, the dialogue’s 3 May starting date has been welcomed by the vast majority of political parties.
Wafd Party Spokesperson Yasser Al-Hodeibi said his party has high hopes that the dialogue will be fruitful and serve Egypt’s long-term political and economic interests.
“The Wafd Party is preparing for the dialogue and will present an agenda that fosters greater political liberalisation and openness,” he said.
Wafdist Senator Hazem Al-Guindi told Al-Ahram Weekly that the almost year-long delay in holding the dialogue may have dampened the enthusiasm of some parties but the Wafd was looking forward to the dialogue sessions and would “target laws on elections, political parties, the exercise of political rights and pre-trial detention”.
Tagammu Party head Sayed Abdel-Aal also welcomed the 3 May date, telling the Weekly that “the dialogue is a golden opportunity” to review Egypt’s political and economic conditions and reach a consensus on the reforms needed to reinforce stability.
“The impact on Egypt of the global economic crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine means it is imperative political forces draw up a new liberal political roadmap,” said Abdel-Aal. “Greater political openness and freedoms are the only way to reinforce stability given the economic headwinds sweeping the region and the world.
“We want to see laws on elections and political parties amended to help opposition parties become more active and consolidate their foothold in parliament.”
The party’s economic agenda for the dialogue will include demands to tighten public spending and to promote manufacturing and agriculture as drivers of foreign currency earnings after the risks of depending on volatile sources like tourism and the Suez proved risky.
The Socialist Democratic Party is also keen to participate. “The party and the Civil Movement — a bloc including six opposition groups — sees the dialogue is the best way to tackle Egypt’s problems and reinforce its stability,” Chairman Farid Zahran said in an interview this week.
He revealed that the Civil Movement has already sent the names of its representatives to the general-secretariat and submitted list of proposed reforms, including amendments liberalising media laws and changing the regulations governing pre-trial detention.
“We want to see more opposition voices covered by the media and all political prisoners to be freed,” said Zahran. “We also want to the presidential elections scheduled for May next year to be held in a transparent and fair atmosphere.”
Rashwan has already met with the leaders of human rights organisations participating in the dialogue.
“The leaders of 22 organisations presented their vision of the issues which will be raised during sessions. They include granting the local human rights community more freedom of action, facilitating the registration of human rights organisations seeking to regulate their status and an extension of the registration deadline for NGOs wishing to operate under the umbrella of the NGO law,” said Rashwan.
The Ministry of Social Solidarity had set 12 April as the final deadline for NGOs to complete the procedures required to legalise their status under the 2019 law regulating civil society in Egypt.
In an interview with Extra News TV channel, Fawzi said the dialogue will comprise a minimum of three weekly sessions divided between the political, economic, and one social tracks, and that it will be up to the dialogue’s 19-member Board of Trustees to determine the topics and finalise the timetables of debates for each dialogue session.
Dialogue participants will include representatives from 85 political parties, 25 professional syndicates, trade unions, NGOs, public figures, experts, and government officials. The Board of Trustees has also invited 16 public figures — politicians, intellectuals, human rights activists, actors and academics — to join the dialogue’s specialised committees. Rapporteurs and assistant rapporteurs will be in charge of running the debates and ensuring that procedural rules and codes of conduct are adhered to.
Most participating forces have already chosen their representatives, and Fawzi said the Trustees and General Coordinator are keen to see the largest possible number of political forces participate in the process.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 27 April, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly