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What did the “national dialogue” achieve in Egypt after two weeks of discussions?

The National Dialogue in Egypt concluded two weeks of its subcommittee sessions. The discussions were distributed equally between the three axes of the dialogue; (political, economic and societal), and was filled with remarkable consensus and expected differences in the views of the participants from the parties and public figures.

Despite the divergence of the assessment of the members of the National Dialogue Board of Trustees who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat of the totality of the sessions of the past two weeks, there is a consensus about the “success of the dialogue” in enhancing the ability of the various partisan currents and forces to manage their differences, which was considered an “indicator.” Positively.

Part of the discussions of the “National Dialogue” in Egypt (National Dialogue page on “Facebook”)

The past two weeks witnessed 72 hours of discussions, and the political axis captured most of the discussions that were described as “hot”. During its sessions, a heated debate about the optimal electoral system emerged, and it became clear the size of the discrepancy between the parties represented in Parliament, which defended the “absolute list” system. », which allows voters to choose only one party list, which gets all the votes if it wins more than half the number of votes, even if by one vote.

On the other hand, the opposition parties described the “absolute list” as “the most wasteful of votes”, and demanded a shift to the “relative list”, a method that allows many party lists to obtain parliamentary seats, according to the number of votes they win.

Dr. Amr Hashem Rabie, a member of the National Dialogue Board of Trustees and an expert in electoral systems, considered this sharp divergence in views a “not positive” indicator, and considered the clear adherence to the “absolute list” “does not bode well for the possibility of real change in this regard.”

Part of the “National Dialogue” discussions in Egypt (National Dialogue page on “Facebook”)

Rabih added to Asharq Al-Awsat that adhering to the “absolute list” “does not achieve the aspirations of the desired political reform,” pointing out that the world “has abandoned this electoral system, and it is no longer applied except in Djibouti and Cameroon.”

Regarding what has been achieved in other cases, a member of the National Dialogue Board of Trustees explained that many of the consensuses that took place in the past two weeks of the sessions “seem very promising,” noting that he “felt a consensus between the various political forces on pretrial detention issues, and the need to issue a new law for localities.” In preparation for holding local council elections as soon as possible.

Rabih also praised what was witnessed in the sessions dedicated to discussing education issues, stressing that “despite the divergence of opinions, they reflected a consensus on the need to establish an independent commission for education, and to change the legislation governing the educational system.”

Demanding legislative amendments that were not limited to education laws, but also affected many political pieces of legislation, such as the parties law, and those that affect urgent social issues, such as the age of marriage, harsher penalties for underage marriage, and child labor.

Although the lawyer and human rights activist, Negad al-Burai, a member of the National Dialogue Board of Trustees, believes that “it is too early to judge the extent to which the national dialogue succeeded in achieving its goals,” he believes that the past two weeks “included remarkable progress in the level of the ability of the various political forces to manage its differences».

Al-Burai stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the “most important gain” achieved by the dialogue sessions so far was proving that the political and societal forces in Egypt “do not have hostility between them, and that they are able to manage their differences within a framework of mutual respect,” noting that this “ It is enough to negate an idea that has been popular during the last period about the nature of the hostile relationship between the different political forces.

He added that all political forces and parties “participated effectively, even those forces that threatened to boycott were among the most present participants and presented ideas and recommendations.” He also described the level of dialogue within the sessions held during the two weeks as “good, and calls for optimism.”

He pointed out that the discussions “reflected a diversity of visions, and that things are not completely rosy, and it is a message that is useful for the decision-maker to listen to.” Rather, Al-Burai believes that the discussions on some issues “exceeded expectations.”

However, a member of the National Dialogue Board of Trustees added, “Many issues, with the exception of those related to the electoral system and the issue of education, were not a matter of great disagreement.” He expected that more heated issues would be raised in the coming sessions, such as issues of domestic investment, human rights, More discussions and differences in viewpoints.

It is expected that during the sessions of the third week of the “national dialogue”, which will start on June 4, a new package of issues will be raised, including the Freedom of Information Act, and the number of members of the House of Representatives and Senate (Parliament) in the political axis, while the axis begins The economist will discuss public investment priorities, state ownership policy, as well as issues of agriculture and food security.

The gains of the “national dialogue” in its first two weeks are not limited to discussions and recommendations, but rather the interaction of the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who called for dialogue, which he launched in April of last year, with the discussions of the political forces. The General Coordinator announced For dialogue, Diaa Rashwan, the president directed the government to refer to the “national dialogue the draft establishment of the Supreme National Council for Education and Training, as well as a draft law to support the Egyptian family,” which are steps that would, according to Rashwan, “give additional impetus to the course of the dialogue, and increase confidence in its discussions.” ».