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Egypt’s National Dialogue Is Finally Getting into Shape

One can hardly see any positivity in the long cluster of the economic and political crises suffered by the world, at large, as a result of the global standoff around the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, pushing countries, like Egypt, to update its outdated economic system and adopt a whole new inclusive approach on the political stage are, perhaps, some of the gems hidden in the sludge of the ongoing war in eastern Europe.

Amidst the dark waves of the global standoff around the Russia-Ukraine war, the inclusive national dialogue that Egypt’s President El-Sisi called for, in April, is finally getting into shape, as an independent organization that will work on integrating all the political and economic factions of the Egyptian society into one harmonious mosaic. On the first week of July, the national dialogue’s first session will take off, and will be followed by a series of other sessions that will attempt to integrate as many voices, from all political backgrounds, as possible.

That is not an easy task in a country that has gone through two revolutions, followed by years of political instability, economic struggle, and lack of security, within a period of only one decade. The character, priorities, and ambitions of the Egyptian citizens have changed a lot over this decade. However, this should not prevent us from being optimistic about the many positive outcomes that may result the national dialogue, especially on the process of democratization, if properly accomplished.

The initial statistics mentioned by the newly appointed dialogue’s coordination committee proves that political change is underway, and the Egyptian society, either on the elite or the grassroots levels, is so eager to embrace it. According to the National Dialogue coordination committee, 96% of the invited political parties and civil groups gave a positive response, while 4% asked for guarantees to their participation, that includes the release of their affiliated prisoners.

In addition, the online application on the website of the National Training Academy (NTA), which is the body responsible for the logistics of organizing the national dialogue, received 69,530 responses from groups and individuals, who represent various sectors of the Egyptian society, from 20 target groups, that includes politicians, civil society professionals, think tank leaders, religious scholars, human rights activists, journalists, and technical professionals.

Despite the large range of diversity of the targeted participants, politics remain the most important issue on the list of the national dialogue priorities. 70 out of the 386 proposals submitted by the interested parties are about political reform. Meanwhile, economic issues and social issues come in the second and third place with 57 and 56 proposals, respectively. Other issues related to education, culture, media, health, and security followed with limited number of proposals.

Obviously, this public craving for political practice and discussions is a natural reaction to the closeness of the political space, during the past seven years. However, the newly appointed General Coordinator of the National Dialogue, Diaa Rashwan, confirmed that the national dialogue will not be a mere practice of pouring hearts among the opposing political elite. “The national dialogue is not going to be a mere exchange of arguments between the participants,” Rashwan stressed. “We aim to reach clear outputs that are agreed upon by most participants, despite their different political stances.”

In fact, the selection of Diaa Rashwan to lead this complicated effort, on behalf of the state, holds a lot of promise that this national dialogue may actually succeed. Rashwan’s professional profile and long career history embodies a perfect balance that enables him to stand tall at the very narrow common strip of ground between the state and the opposition.

Currently, Rashwan is the Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate, but at the same time he is the President of the State Information Service (SIS). Along his life, he has been known for being the brave journalist, who politically leans to the leftist/socialist wing, where most of the current opposition parties belong. He, also, has a long record of standing up in defense of freedom of expression and exposing human rights violations and corruption under the former regimes. He is definitely the perfect person for that not so easy job.

The next step for the national dialogue coordination committee should be to form a board of trustees that includes elite figures, who represent the 20 target groups that the national dialogue aims to involve. Then, they will set together to figure out the best way to integrate the different approaches and the outcomes of the discussions into a base for the desired political progress that everyone, in Egypt, aspires to have.

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