Dialogue sessions resume on 25 July
National Dialogue Board of Trustees member Kamal Zayed has said that when public dialogue sessions resume on 25 July, following an extended holiday for Islamic New Year and marking the 23 July Revolution, a new agenda of political, economic and social issues will be discussed, reports Gamal Essam El-Din.
Diaa Rashwan, the dialogue’s general coordinator, used a TV interview to say that, since the opening session on 3 May, the dialogue’s committee meetings had “gone a long way in creating common ground on a wide range of political, economic and social issues” and that participants have agreed on a raft of laws that need to be either amended or passed.
Now that the three political committees — on Local Councils, Parliamentary Representation and Political Rights, and Political Parties — have finished their debates, the next round of public sessions will focus mainly on economic and social issues, said Rashwan. He added that each committee had listened to a wide range of speakers and arguments and the task now is to crystallise what had been said into legislative recommendations that can be presented to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.
Rashwan reported that the Local Council Committee had held four sessions to review relevant legislation and that all participants, from regime loyalists to the opposition, had expressed regret that despite parliament having discussed a new law in 2019 it has yet to be passed, resulting in the absence of any civil supervisory authority at the local level.
“The consensus among participants is that legislation is urgently needed to allow local councils to be elected and take charge of supervising the performance of provincial governors and executive local councils,” said Rashwan.
Ahmed Al-Sigini, head of parliament’s Local Administration Committee, said that among the recommendations to be presented to President Al-Sisi will be the suggestion that a new local council law be prioritised in the agenda in the upcoming 2023-2024 parliamentary session.
“Parliament faces a challenge in passing a law that is both constitutional and effective,” warned Al-Sigini. While some participants favoured a closed party list system for elections, others argued for an open list that would allow parties to win seats in proportion to the number of votes they secure.
“We need strong political will to draft the necessary legislation and elect local councils as soon as possible,” said Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie. He argues that a mixed system of open party lists and individual candidacy will ensure the elections are constitutional and competitive.
Rashwan also said dialogue participants had agreed that current stipulations that new parties have at least 5,000 members drawn from a minimum of 10 governorates be revoked. A majority of participants want to see the minimum membership quota changed to between 1,000 to 3,000. Participants also want the provision that new parties open a bank account with LE2 million to secure a license be cancelled and a committee be set up to take charge of licensing parties.
The Civil Democratic Movement — an alliance of liberal and leftist forces — argued for a provision guaranteeing parties with seats in parliament or on local councils financial support from the state.
Rashwan characterised the debates over the last four rounds of sessions as exposing major rifts among participants over the election system to be adopted for the 2025 parliamentary elections and expressed the hope that “we will recommend a system that ensures the fair representation of all forces”.
According to Rashwan, a majority of participants want to see the number of seats in the House of Representatives and Senate increased.
The dialogue will also recommend that a draft law establishing a Supreme National Council for Education and Training be prioritised in the next parliamentary session. Consensus also emerged over the importance of new laws on freedom of information, combating discrimination, amending legislation regulating the guardianship of children, and changing the 2019 law regulating non-governmental organisations to reduce the tax burdens they face and enable them to become more involved in the provision of productive services.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 20 July, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly