Political and partisan forces in Egypt, as well as civil action players in the country, have enthusiastically welcomed the invitation to national dialogue extended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the Egyptian Family Iftar banquet. Several political and partisan forces considered the invitation a great opportunity to reinvigorate Egyptian political life. Accordingly, a number of Egyptian political parties valued the invitation, confirmed its acceptance, and start working at all fronts and on all topics related to the dialogue. They aimed to pave the way for community interaction with all economic, social, and political issues aimed at building the new republic with the participation of the Egyptian society’s various segments.
The majority of Egyptian political parties, in addition to the Journalists Syndicate, and major figures of civil action, announced their participation in the dialogue. This came after the National Training Academy issued a statement confirming that Sisi tasked the National Youth Conference with coordinating with political parties, movements and youth groups to hold this dialogue. The event is organized under the Academy’s umbrella in coordination with all political and youth parties to run a national dialogue that tackles the priorities of national work at this current time. The outcomes of this dialogue are then submitted to the presidency.
The Academy stresses that it manages this dialogue with complete impartiality and not biased, provided that its role is to coordinate among the different groups participating in the national dialogue without interfering with the content of what is being discussed. The goal is to pave the way for a serious, effective and inclusive national dialogue that involves all forces and groups.
The dialogue should be in line with the ambitions and aspirations of the political leadership, and the various political forces, in order to contribute to determining the priorities of national action and build a new republic that accepts everyone - according to the statement – where differences of opinion cannot meddle with the homeland’s issues.
The Academy will also adopt the principle of expanding the base of participation in the dialogue by inviting all representatives of the Egyptian society, with as many groups and institutions as possible, to ensure the representation of all groups in the societal dialogue, achieve real momentum and credibility and launch a new stage in Egypt’s political path.
However, questions have arisen about the willingness of the political parties in Egypt to participate in this step, which is a real opportunity for the parties to express their presence in the political scene. Will the dialogue unravel the crisis facing these parties, and their inability to devise new political visions, adopt political plans, reach solutions for the country’s economic woes, or adopt a methodology and a clear roadmap to address economic crises? Will these parties utilize the national dialogue to prove their actual presence in the political scene? Or will the dialogue reveal their vulnerabilities and incapacity, and show that they are nothing more than formal parties, or “cartoon” parties that do not exist in the political scene, and that they are actually among the causes of the problem? Therefore, the national dialogue should include a roadmap to address the economic challenges, and to develop solutions to the crisis and the weakness of the Egyptian parties.
A Suitable Time to Initiate the National Dialogue
Sisi called for the national dialogue at a particularly appropriate moment, as the past period was dedicated the cleanse the leftovers of the Brotherhood regime, eliminate terrorism and end the difficult period that Egypt experienced, according to the head of the Arab Party for Justice and Equality, Sheikh Ali Freij. Talking exclusively to Majalla, he stressed that today, thanks to the government’s policy and the efforts of the army and police, all terrorist forms have been eliminated, even in the Sinai Peninsula. He said that now all terrorist elements present there have been eliminated except for a number of a few small groups that hide in the mountains. He explained that citizens returned to their villages, and the wheel of development is spinning again in Sinai. Freij added that the national dialogue came today at a time when Sisi is rebuilding the state and announcing a new republic based on the elements of freedom, justice and development. He noted that the President has come a long way in restoring the infrastructure in the country, and allowing the participation of youth and women, whose participation used to be limited.
Today, young people and women are taking part in various fields, including in the Parliament and its two branches - the House of Representatives and the Senate. Women represent 50 percent of the society and have come to enjoy a great role after they were dysfunctional forces. The dialogue will allow the participation of political parties in order to have a broader role. It will also open the way for all national forces supporting the Egyptian state to take responsibility and participate in the political decision-making. There is no doubt that the President was keen since day one on involving the political parties as they are the only entities entrusted with the practice of political work in Egypt. After all, they are among the legitimate channels for practicing political work in the country, and through them, people from all ages, backgrounds and gender can participate in this national dialogue.
The current Egyptian political parties are existing parties that were approved by the Parties Affairs Committee. These parties emerged after a long period of practices during which the parties became accustomed to the existence of a dominant party, which is the ruling party. Today, however, the door is open for all parties to practice political and partisan work on an equal footing. Therefore, the people must participate in the exercise of their role through these parties, and according to the program of each party.
The parties in general had to develop cadres tasked with leading the party work, which is now available. There is also the role of the training academy tasked with training young people who have grown today to become the parties’ active elements. There is no doubt that today the parties have been given the opportunity to participate and present their vision, and that the ball is now in their court. They should be interacting and participating, and they are required to get rid of the methods of bidding and destructive criticism, and to adopt instead constructive criticism that is in the interest of the country.
A New Challenge to Achieve the Dialogue’s Objectives
Representative Amal Ramzy, a member of the Senate’s Defense and National Security Committee, told Majalla exclusively: The Egyptian state had facing multiple challenges related to its national security and the fierce war waged by terrorist and extremist groups after the June 30 Revolution, which attempted to undermine the stability and security of the Egyptian people, not only at the internal level, but also externally. Nonetheless, it stood in the face of terrorist operations that are financed from abroad and by international powers, and scored many achievements over the past years, evident most successfully in the development of Sinai. Today, the Egyptian state has turned towards a new challenge, which is developing the new republic and transitioning towards it. This requires a comprehensive national dialogue that involves all societal groups, especially the political parties, which in turn will be the vital link in achieving the desired goals of this dialogue.
The call for national dialogue itself aims to bring together the groups and segments of society under the umbrella of a dialogue through which discussions will take place and create a space for tackling problems, challenges and issues facing the state. This requires upholding the public interest and achieving all what is beneficial for the society.
As for the role of parties, as a quick link to the public, they are tasked with managing the dialogue and communicating the views of decision-makers to the public in an understanding manner. This requires moving away from adherence to partisan ideologies and trends. Instead, there is one basic task, which is the homeland and how to move quickly to the new republic that relies on modern civil democracy.
Amidst the repercussions facing the Egyptian state from in the recent period, whether related to COVID-19 or to the crisis of the Russian-Ukrainian war and its negative reverberations, the biggest challenge remains trying to survive the Egyptian economy despite all these obstacles and striving to achieve positive growth rates that contribute to maintaining the efforts made by the government over the past years. The national dialogue must include in its speech and points the need to find serious mechanisms to deal with economic challenges and the means to getting out of the impasse of these crises by developing a roadmap that relies on the available capabilities and the possibility of employing them in strengthening the local product. It also relies on Egyptian hands in order to achieve self-sufficiency until the war ends.
When tackling the parties’ crises and weaknesses, the primary cause is that each party works in isolation from the other. This eventually produced many different opinions, ideas and orientations for the public. The evidence lies in the great success the parties achieved during the parliamentary elections, and their ability to unite in order to gain access to the House of Representatives and the Senate and the formation of an electoral alliance. Their success in such a trial underlines the need for unity in order to achieve a better future.
A Call for Unity During Difficult Times
There is always a lurking societal danger in the face of any sudden economic or strategic crises. The foundation of society and its cohesion face an actual threat, according to the writer and political analyst Abdullah al-Sanawi. He said in an exclusive interview with Majalla: I perceive the presidential call for dialogue as a call for cohesion during such difficult times
However, which dialogue are we talking about Every dialogue has its context, its requirements, and its origins. We need the idea of dialogue to take its full extent and succeed in achieving its goals represented in cohesion and finding consensual solutions or a new social contract for the economic issue. The dialogue can also be understood as a call for Egyptian talents and competencies to find solutions to the aggravating economic crisis, expand the extent of the public sphere and public freedoms, and release all the oppressed behind prison walls - those imprisoned according to the pre-trial detention law, or those imprisoned by judicial rulings, if not accused of murder or inciting violence. This is what can be called the general concept, the general framework, or the necessities of the dialogue.
The dialogue has its necessities, and I think that there is a national consensus among most people to accept dialogue. The Muslim Brotherhood are seeking to seal a new deal with the current regime. The Brotherhood, as we said, do not negotiate, but rather seal deals. We do not want to repeat yesterday’s mistakes, during the days of Presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. Still, this does not mean rejecting dialogue with them. I agree with the presidential rhetoric that as citizens, they must be integrated into society, social life and their functions as individuals. However, speaking of them as part of the Brotherhood is a totally different issue. The Brotherhood as a political group, resorts to violence, since it does not comprehend the language of dialogue. When the Brotherhood returned in the seventies during the era of President Sadat, it aimed to confront the two leftist currents across universities campuses: the Nasserite and the Marxist. This eventually ended in the assassination of President Sadat in 1981.
Another dialogue took place with the Brotherhood in a different form during deals that took place in 2005. After these deals, the Brotherhood left the National Front, which was headed at that time by Dr. Aziz Sedky, to take part in the parliamentary elections as part of a united opposition front. The Brotherhood took alliance with the regime and won 88 seats in Parliament. Thus, the group’s history show that they are not open to dialogue. Nonetheless, we must build a real civil and political life in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past are. Therefore, the invited are the civil forces, currents, unions, institutions and parties despite their severe and grave weakness. While we do not have a partisan life, it must be involved because, once again, we suffer from a gloomy political vacuum. If there is a severe economic crisis, or societal tensions, we will have economic solutions that have been agreed upon. The community after all stands in the face of any threats facing its future and its fate, because it cannot bear new disturbances. Dialogue is therefore very necessary, and it must be serious and involve Sisi to head it.
Sanawi added that dialogue is an opportunity for the political forces, on the condition that they are serious. If the issue is not taken completely seriously, the invitation may be withdrawn. The issue is not conducting a dialogue and then going back home. The real issue is being able to resolve the piling problems, reduce public tension, and reach a new atmosphere that allows gradual improvement. The topic of dialogue is urgent and necessary in order to save the country from any widespread unrest that threatens peace and security.
A Great Responsibility and Opportunity to be Seized
The parties should invest in the idea of dialogue to develop their performance, present visions, and not be content with simply opposing, according to Dr. Amr El-Shobaki, a researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. He emphasized in exclusive statements to Majalla the parties’ responsibility, because there is undoubtedly a part of them that is content with the opposition discourse without breaking a sweat in order to present alternatives and visions. Therefore, the dialogue emerges as an opportunity to promote the idea of presenting visions and programs and creating serious spaces. In my opinion, if the dialogue is properly utilized, it will lead to a political breakthrough, and may help push the parties to present visions and programs.
The dialogue represents an opportunity that must be utilized, and I hope it will not be lost. It is an opportunity that everyone should benefit from in reviewing the laws of pretrial detention, expanding the margin of public freedoms and freedom of expression, and giving more spaces for political parties to walk the streets. The aforementioned concerns the political system. As for the parties, the dialogue is burdening because they must present visions, prepare their cadres and train them in governance and management. Simply being an opposition would not suffice. The parties have an opportunity that can be utilized it if they properly seize it.
Dealing with Internal and External Challenges
The national dialogue is a call launched by the president in the face of the challenges facing the country internally and externally. The dialogue is comprehensive as it does not exclude any of the political parties. This is the logic behind the dialogue, according to Senator Naji al-Shehabi, Head of the Democratic Generation Party. Speaking to Majalla, he stressed that when there is a dialogue about an agreed-upon and well-prepared agenda, the dialogue will be a participatory vision among all political parties and across the Egyptian political spectrum. We, in the Democratic Generation Party, appreciate the call for dialogue, which reflects a comprehensive vision of how to revitalize Egyptian society across the political, economic, societal, industrial, and agricultural axes. Dialogue will be an opportunity for political parties to find solutions to various problems, and I believe that serious parties that have a vision and serious programs will succeed in this.
Time: An Absent Luxury for Holding a National Dialogue
In light of the current situation in Egypt against the backdrop of the global system, the dialogue needs to activate real visions, as the parties that currently think about looking for visions to find solutions will be out of context. The parties must have a strategic vision first, according to the head of the Egyptian party, Major General Engineer Sayed al-Jabri. He stressed to Majalla the need for ready-made ideas in order to come up with innovative solutions that generate high incomes through a strategic vision for quick solutions, and others for the medium and long term. We must have an integrated vision with an executive financial timetable. Do the parties have such visions? We at the Egyptian Party have this vision, but political money was in control of the electoral process. The parties also do not have the magic wand to change the situation in the blink of an eye. At the same time, the culture of difference among the parties does not exist, in a way that evades crises. This dialogue necessitates a suitable atmosphere for its success, and the rest of the parties must bring to the table what they have.