The launch of the National Dialogue –which I consider a democratic event to be celebrated– is approaching and its procedural steps are starting to unfold.
A few days ago, the National Dialogue Administration issued a comprehensive report on the position of parties, political and youth forces, and various institutions and public figures on participation in the Dialogue and their visions on priority national action issues. Moreover, a general coordinator for the Dialogue and a head of technical secretariat have been appointed and their powers defined. Other steps will come in succession to pave the way for the start of the National Dialogue in the first week of July.
In this vein, I believe there are four remarks that all the political forces engaged in the Dialogue should take into consideration, and these are as follows:
First, it is the political leadership that initiated the National Dialogue, a step that reflects its self-confidence and is a positive indicator of it being proactive in responding to the Dialogue’s outcomes and willing to implement any recommendations deemed required and realistic.
Second, so far, all the dynamics of the National Dialogue, particularly the large number of the parties and political forces to be involved in it, are demonstrative of the availability of the most crucial components of its success in terms of the turnover and consensus among actors on the national action issues (e.g. political, economic, social), notwithstanding the fact that they may differ in prioritizing them, but ultimately they bring to the table the total issues to be addressed.
Third, the upcoming Dialogue will be conducted in the context of an internally strong and stable state that is implementing comprehensive development plans, maintains privileged regional and international relations, and has a national leadership that makes considerable achievements. As such, the Dialogue isn’t intended to start from ground zero in addressing national action issues and doesn’t seek to achieve missing national reconciliation. What it is after is identifying how to activate the political participation principle, enabling the different political forces to transparently put forward their visions as regards national action issues so that everyone plays different roles in building the New Republic.
Fourth, the entity that will oversee and moderate the Dialogue must adhere to neutrality and shouldn’t deviate from it whatever happens. It should also show perseverance, containment, and positivity and the involved parties, in return, should trust it and provide it with the means of success, which will eventually make the Dialogue more credible.
And while the state isn’t in need of marketing its achievements that are visible to all, I believe the political forces involved in the Dialogue have a major responsibility, requiring them to possess all tools of persuasion, enjoy objectivity, and stay away from destructive criticism while putting forward practical constructive ideas.
I’m still deeply convinced that this Dialogue offers the different forces and institutions a great opportunity to make it clear that they are keen on positive participation and that, by involving in it, they will capitalize on the opportunity to open a new chapter of dealing effectively with the present and future national issues.
When it comes to the impact of National Dialogue at the public level, I see it offers an opportunity to re-engage citizens in the national issues, challenges, and aspirations, particularly the Egyptian people–as President Al-Sisi underscored several times– were a critical factor in the success of reform programs adopted by the state in recent years, especially the economic ones.
This brings us to an extremely important question of how the Egyptian public opinion could become part of this Dialogue and how the people can interact with it so as to feel that it serves its aspirations without exaggeration. In this respect, I put forward three possible suggestions through which this can be achieved:
Suggestion one: Live-streaming some sessions of the National Dialogue, particularly the opening session, or at least recording sessions on big issues to be later broadcast on talk shows for a broad audience.
Suggestion two: The participation of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in some of the final stages of the Dialogue, as he promised, which will bring to the Dialogue great momentum.
Suggestion three: Making public the State’s implementation of some of the recommendations the Dialogue will produce, which would speak volumes of the State’s strength and its openness to put into action any ideas that are put forward within a national framework and are in the interest of the State.
In short, the National Dialogue marks a new phase in which the state underscores its need to involve all of its citizens in the unprecedented nation building process and offers an opportunity for the political forces within the opposition to show the true meaning of the responsible national opposition, that even if it has different perspective from that of the State –which they have the right to– they still prove to be one of the foundation-stones of building the nation and preserving it.
This article was originally published in Al-Ahram newspaper on 15 June 2022.