National Dialogue round two

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 4 Jan 2024

A new round of the National Dialogue is expected to start soon.

Al-Sisi addressing the opening session of the National Dialogue in May 2023
Al-Sisi addressing the opening session of the National Dialogue in May 2023


After the conclusion of the presidential election expectations are growing that the National Dialogue will soon resume. In a short speech on 18 September, newly elected President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said that “the coming stage of Egypt’s political life will see the completion of the National Dialogue process in an effective and practical way.”

Al-Sisi also told his three presidential election rivals in a meeting on 19 December that completion of the National Dialogue is needed to reinvigorate political life, saying a “permanent dialogue between all political forces and parties that serves the nation’s supreme interests and helps enrich diversity and pluralism in society” is needed.

Head of the State Information Service Diaa Rashwan said the first round of National Dialogue sessions between May and September already constituted a major political achievement.

“From April 2022, or since President Al-Sisi issued his invitation for political, economic, and social forces to meet in a dialogue, much has been done to create a consensus on political, economic and social reforms,” said Rashwan.

Ihab Al-Tamawy, rapporteur of the dialogue’s Political Committee, said vital issues had been discussed in the first phase, including changes to the Political Parties Law 40/1977 which will make it easier to license political parties.

“When the National Dialogue sessions reconvene, the committee plans to issue its final recommendations on regulating the performance of political parties,” Al-Tamawi said.

The recommendations will cover membership quotas and sources of funding, the powers of the committee in charge of licensing political parties and whether political parties with similar ideological platforms should be allowed to merge.

Ahmed Ragheb, assistant rapporteur of the National Dialogue’s Human Rights and Public Liberties Committee, said his committee “has reached consensus over four of its eight assigned topics, including drafting a new law to establish an anti-discrimination commission and another to regulate the handling of information.” Ragheb added that in the second phase the committee will focus on laws regulating pre-trial detention, the travel-ban lists and sequestration of assets.

According to Ragheb, the committee will probe the possibility of establishing a national council for disabled people “in line with Article 53 of the constitution which stipulates that citizens are equal before the law regardless of religion, sex, race, language, disability, social class and political affiliation.”

Magdy Al-Badawi, assistant rapporteur of the Civil Work and Syndicates Committee, said his committee has already discussed laws regulating NGOs, trade unions, and cooperatives and recommended they be changed to allow NGOs, trade unions, and cooperatives to play a greater role in the development process. In the next stage the committee will address ways to update the laws regulating professional syndicates and discuss long overdue amendments to the labour law.

Local Council Committee’s rapporteur Samir Abdel-Wahab reported that in the dialogue’s first phase participants had agreed that new legislation be drafted to regulate local councils, with a majority favouring a combination of the closed system and open proportional lists to elect local council members.

According to Abdel-Wahab, in the second phase the committee will formulate recommendations on how the heads of local executive councils, heads of cities and village mayors are selected.

“We will also try crystallise agreement on issues such as the relationship between central government and local councils, and when these councils can be disbanded in line with Article 183 of the constitution,” said Abdel-Wahab.

Ayman Mehasseb, rapporteur of the dialogue’s Investment Committee, said the government’s privatisation programme will top the agenda of future sessions. “We support privatisation in all sectors, but particularly in tourism, and we want to make sure that the government’s stakes in hotels and tourist projects are sold at a fair price,” said.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli announced last week that the government has generated $5.6 billion through fully or partially privatising 14 state-owned companies.

Health committee rapporteur Randa Mustafa said the first stage of the committee’s sessions discussed ways to roll out universal health insurance across Egypt and the second phase will see the committee review employment conditions in public hospitals and ways to promote drug industry localisation.

Rehab Al-Shabrawi, assistant rapporteur of the National Dialogue’s Family Committee, reported that early discussions focused on drafting a new personal status law and divorce-related issues such as alimony, while the second phase is likely to recommend a new unified law on violence against women.

“The concept of violence against women needs to be expanded to include all behaviours that lead to physical and psychological harm,” said Al-Shabrawi. Second phase sessions will also discuss ways to raise public awareness of mental illness and the dangers of child marriage and labour.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 January, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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