• December 31, 2012
  • 10 minutes read

Opinion Leaders: National Dialogue Sessions Aid Presidential Bid for Consensus, Democracy

Opinion Leaders: National Dialogue Sessions Aid Presidential Bid for Consensus, Democracy

National dialogue in Egypt entered an important stage of discussions, with the institution of the presidency determined to repeatedly call for all opposition forces to attend the fifth round. The President is keen on extending the circle of participation to include all political forces and parties in Egypt, in order for the homeland, according to the Presidency, to achieve the progress and prosperity all Egyptians hope for.

The First Session:

The President’s call for national dialogue came in a speech addressed to the people on Thursday December 6. The first session was held on Saturday 8 of the same month, in the presence of 56 representatives of the most political, social and other actors in society as well as independent personalities.

After discussions and hearing contrasting views, attendees agreed to form a "National Dialogue Committee" (NDC) comprising eight members, chaired by Dr. Mohamed Salim Al-Awa, and with Abul-Ela Madi as its rapporteur. This discussed all suggestions and ideas to resolve disputes with opposition, and ended with a recommendation to issue a new constitutional declaration and to cancel the presidential declaration that seemingly sparked the polarizing controversy.

The NDC agreed that the referendum would be conducted on schedule, on December 15, in compliance with the Constitutional Declaration of March 30, 2011 which did not allow any change in the date of the referendum. The relevant Article provides that the draft constitution would be put to a public referendum within fifteen days from the date of receipt by the President.

It was further agreed that the President would urge all political forces that did not participate in the first session to express their opinion on the articles to be amended and included in a binding document signed by the President and the political forces, for submission to the House of Representatives in its first session.

In the first session, also, attendees highlighted the need to appoint judges to investigate the violent events that took place in the vicinity of the Itehadia presidential palace, and to take all legal measures against those who were involved in the violence, committed crimes or instigated or financed wrong-doing regardless of affiliation.

The Second Session

The second session of national dialogue was held on Tuesday, December 11, headed by Justice Mahmoud Makki, the Vice-President, and in the presence of the NDC formed in the first session.

The second session was also attended by representatives of a number of political forces and legal and public figures as well as media professionals. The session lasted nearly five hours. It dealt with articles that required discussion to achieve consensus on the draft constitution, in order for amendments to be sent to the House of Representatives later, if the draft constitution is approved.

Attendees agreed that parliamentary blocs of parties participating in this dialogue would be committed to adopt these amendments when put to the House of Representatives.

To aid the rounds of national dialogue, and in order to further expand the circle of participation of political forces and the community, and also in order to improve national unity and harmony, President Morsi met on the same day with both Dr. Badawi, the leader of Wafd Party; and Abul-Ela Madi, head of the Wassat Party, to exchange views on topics of priority on the agenda of the national dialogue.

The Third Session

On Thursday, December 13, the third session was held at the presidential palace, headed once again by the Vice-President. The session was preceded by a meeting of the NDC. The session discussed the status of the Shura Council if the draft constitution was approved. The Council will take over full legislative powers until the new House of Representatives is elected.

The NDC and attendees of the dialogue session agreed the President would select appointed members of the Shura Council in a manner that achieves balanced representation within the Council, especially in that important and precarious transitional period, where important laws, including those related to the parliamentary election process, will be introduced.

Moreover, attendees agreed to send to the Presidency official nominations for Shura Council appointments. Shortly afterwards, many political parties, groups and movements, as well as Al-Azhar and Egypt’s three Churches sent their official nominations for the Council.

The Fourth Session

National dialogue sessions continued with the fourth round on Wednesday December 19. Attendees agreed that if the draft constitution is approved, parliamentary election law would be discussed and so would also articles for which amendments are proposed, so they would later be presented to the new parliament. If the draft constitution was not approved, the law for the new Constituent Assembly elections would be discussed.

Attendees further agreed that on Monday December 25, proposals would be sent to NDC, which would convene on Tuesday December 26, to study, sort and prepare proposals so the most important of them would be presented at the plenary on Wednesday December 27, 2012.

For his part, Dr. Amr Darrag, Secretary-General of the Constituent Assembly which drafted the national charter, hailed the national dialogue sessions and the results of its work, saying: "National dialogue is going well with the participation of many political forces. It is important to persist in national dialogue, and to achieve broad and strong consensus.

"One negative aspect, though, is that certain political parties are boycotting the dialogue. They should realize that what they’re doing is a blatant mistake, since dialogue has positive results for the homeland and the people."

Darrag added that one of the most important fruits of national dialogue already is a consensus on appointed members of Shura Council, and setting a clear agenda for action after the referendum: reaching consensus either on disputed constitution articles and the law of the House of Representatives elections, or on the law of the Constituent Assembly election.

He expressed hope that the National Salvation Front would participate in the Fifth Session of the dialogue, which begins next Wednesday, pointing that some members of that Front have agreed in principle to participation in the ongoing dialogue.

Separately, Dr. Safwat Bayadi, head of the Anglican Church, said the Church was represented in two sessions of the national dialogue, in order to participate effectively in national issues that should be resolved through fruitful dialogue, especially since the dialogue would bring views closer and achieve consensus.

Dr. Bayadi praised the presidential decree appointing most members of the Shura Council from outside the Islamic movement, describing this as a worthy act of goodwill which he appreciated.