A “dialogue” meeting called for by the armed forces on Tuesday night was cancelled Thursday after insufficient interest.
The Minister of Defence, Major General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, had called on national and political forces to attend a meeting, which would not tackle political issues but would be a “family gathering.”
Before the public had the time to understand the implications of the call, the meeting was postponed indefinitely.
According to state-run media, the meeting was postponed because the reactions from political groups did not meet the army’s expectation.
Before the meeting was postponed, the National Salvation Front (NSF) said Amr Moussa, Mounir Fakhry Abdel Noor and possibly Mohamed ElBaradei would represent the front, the largest opposition bloc in the country. The NSF boycotted a meeting called for by the president on Saturday.
Yousry Al-Azabawy, political expert in Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) said the army’s invitation was strange. “It indicates that state institutions are floundering,” Al-Azabawy said.
He believed the invitation was no more than a “slip of the tongue” of the minister of defence. “The proof is that there was no agenda,” he said. “It is also an indicator that the government is week.”
Al- Azabawy believed the invitation should have come from the president, not the defence minister. He added that the invitation sends the message that the army is willing to take responsibility, should things spiral out of control.
“The question we should ask right now is, is the army returning to the scene?” he said.
Mohamed Ezz Al-Arab, another political expert in ACPSS, felt the army’s invitation was a genuine attempt by the army to resolve the crisis. “Why else would they have done it? For power?” he asked.
Ezz Al-Arab did not think the army was trying to return to politics. “The army’s return, if it happens will be under new conditions and new rules,” he said. He believed the army wanted to prevent chaos and was trying to help the Islamists reach an agreement with the opposition.
“But it appears that there were pressures from the presidency to not hold the dialogue,” he added. “I think the pressures were exercised from outside the presidency onto the presidency. I think they came from the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.
The army’s invitation came less than a day before the start of the referendum for expatriates on the constitution.