Saturday April 30, 2022
Sisi calls for a national dialogue in Egypt
Abdel Fattah Al Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has announced a national political dialogue, which will create a new vision of the country. The leader has talked about it during the meeting with journalists at Aswan last week, and he reiterated it at the official iftar on Tuesday where political leaders from other parties and businesses were present. It included former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi. The leader wants the meetings to decide on Egypt’s economic and political priorities, and even whether there is need for a new constitution. According to observers, the president’s gesture is not entirely due to the economic crisis, especially on wheat imports, because of the war in Ukraine. There is the hope that this could lead to political reform in the country, according to Member of Parliament Mustafa Bakri. He tweeted on April 23: “President Al-Sisi’s announcement reflects the determination of the political leadership to reach consensus on a national vision of this reform which coincides with the launch of the new republic and follows recent economic reforms.”
Many of the political leaders in the country seem to be quite clear on what the proposed national dialogue should focus on. According to Abdel-Moneim Said, who is a political analyst and member of the Senate, the dialogue must address amendments to laws on equality, anti-discrimination, and personal status, and discuss political openness, freedom of expression, human rights, transparency, and accountability. Effat Al-Sadat, chairperson of the Senate’s Foreign and Arab Affairs Committee and head of the Sadat Democratic Part told Egypt’s Al Ahram weekly that Al-Sisi’s call for political dialogue is not due to American pressure or to due economic crisis. He said, “While there is no doubt that the country is facing many challenges, including the economic impacts of the war in Ukraine, I think overpopulation will feature high on the agenda of the political dialogue.” It is reported that President Al-Sisi has said during his meeting with journalists at Aswan that Egypt’s population has grown form 80 million in 2011 to 104 million.
But other Egyptian politicians and opinion leaders have indicated what should be the priority of the national dialogue. Abdel Sanad-Yamama, newly elected chair of the Wafd Party, said Wafd and other opposition forces were agreed that “Chapter 5 of the current constitution which covers the legislative authority, the president, and the government, should be amended. Maha Abdel-Nasser, parliamentary spokesman of the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party said the political parties should “prepare for the dialogue by drafting a clear-cut agenda reflecting their vision on political reform. The much-needed dialogue should also discuss pressing economic issues in the country, including levels of foreign debt.” Mohammed Saad, deputy chairman of the House of Representatives’ Industrial Committee said “the agenda of the expected political dialogue should focus on issues related to democracy, human rights, media freedoms, and the rule of law. Issues such as overpopulation, further economic reforms should also be on the agenda since dealing with them requires a consensus among political forces.” Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Al-Chobaki opined, “The dialogue should concentrate on vital issues such as press and media freedoms, democracy, elections, and human rights.”
There is then much clarity among political leaders and political observers as to what needs to be discussed at the meeting. It appears that President Al-Sisi now feels confident that the situation in the country is conducive for a free, democratic exchange of views about the future of the country. After the 2011 Tahrir Square protests which led to the fall of the Hosni Mubarak government, Egypt went through a rough patch.
Egypt it seems is looking for another major change in its polity, this time through a national dialogue.