Egypt: National political dialogue reportedly set to be delayed

The National Dialogue Administration revealed the 19-member board of trustees for the national dialogue, which was supposed to begin during the first week of July but now looks set to be delayed.

On 8 June, Egypt’s official Ahramonline website reported that the country would hold the first sessions of the national political dialogue during the first week of July, “as all preparations required for holding the dialogue have been completed, according to a statement by the dialogue’s administration”.

The administration says that the board was formed following 20 days of consultations with political and trade union forces. It includes several members of parliament, newspaper editors and journalists, professors, and human rights lawyer Negad El Borai, among others.

An unnamed member of the Civil Democratic Movement, which has been one of the regime’s main interlocutors as it plans the dialogue, said that only two of the five names proposed by the movement made it onto the final list. “We cannot reject those who were chosen, but we would have liked to choose others whose positions are more clear,” the source added.

The board of trustees will meet in the first week of July—when the dialogue itself was supposed to take place—to hash out the details of the dialogue, including its invitees, duration, agenda, and priorities. Stakeholders are also reportedly continuing to jockey over who will lead the board.

The dialogue’s coordinator, Journalists Syndicate head Diaa Rashwan, has suggested that individuals close to the Muslim Brotherhood, even those who are in exile, may be invited to the dialogue, provided they have not been convicted of violent crimes, as reported by Akhbar El Yom.

As for the content, Reform and Development Party head and National Council for Human Rights member Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat used a Supreme Council for Media Regulation meeting to question why news sites like Mada Masr, Darb, and al-Manassa remain blocked in Egypt even as the country discusses a dialogue on a “new republic”. The country must leave space for alternative opinions “if we are truly stepping towards a new republic,” he said.

Other commentators and prospective dialogue participants, such as former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, have renewed their calls for the release of political prisoners as a necessary prelude to the dialogue.

Journalist Hossam Moanis, one of the few to have received a pardon, noted on June 25 that his freedom will not be complete until the others arrested exactly three years earlier in the Hope Coalition case, such as parliamentarian Ziad el-Elaimy and journalist Hisham Fouad, are also released.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International urged authorities to release activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and his lawyer, Mohamed El-Baqer, on the one thousandth day of their unjust imprisonment (though Abdel Fattah has already spent far longer behind bars in other bogus cases).

With Egypt taking over as chair of the African Union Advisory Board Against Corruption, Presidential Pardon Committee member Tarek al-Awady also appealed for a pardon for former Central Auditing Organization head Hisham Geneina, who was dismissed in 2016 and subsequently imprisoned after exposing massive government corruption.

Al-Awady also suggested that more releases may come around the anniversary of the June 30 protests that led to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime taking power, with another batch of releases before Eid al-Adha in July.

According to al-Awady’s Presidential Pardon Committee colleague Kamal Abu Aita, pardons are happening only intermittently because some relevant state authorities are pressing for more releases even as others push for a fresh campaign of investigations and arrests of critics.