At the latest session of The New Arab Debates held in Al-Azhar Conference Centre on Tuesday, Egypt’s political opposition were shelled with accusations of lacking vision and plans for the country’s economic and political crisis.
Non-resident Fellow in Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institution H.A Hellyer argued for the motion: “This House believes Egypt’s opposition has wasted its chances and let down the people.”
Hossam Fares from the Al-Dostour Party and a member of the National Salvation Front (NSF) argued that the opposition has accomplished in four months more than the Muslim Brotherhood did in 80 years.
Hellyer said Egypt’s NSF had not provided leadership or a plan to help the Egyptians move forward. “The opposition did not direct or mobilise the people. They just follow.”
Fares offered a rebuttal saying the NSF follow people in the streets without aiming at using violence. “Leadership is by following what people demand.”
Hellyer also directed strong criticism of the NSF for refusing to have dialogues with the government, which Fares insisted was the result of the coalition not wanting to be part of “deceptive talks”, especially when “no one takes any notice of what you are saying”.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong in going and talking even to your enemy,” Hellyer said.
The NSF would stage around 250 national conferences across the country to promote its vision for the next 7 years and encourage grassroots support, stated Fares.
An audience member criticised Hossam Fares for marginalising the gap between the opposition and the people, especially the youth.
“The youth need qualifications to be accountable for leadership positions,” said Fares, while Hellyer confirmed that there are several youth who are ready to take control.
Hellyer insisted Egypt had no time left and needed a roadmap “to avoid catastrophe” in response to Fares’s answer that the opposition need more time. Hellyer concluded that Egypt deserves a better government, a better opposition, and people willing to hold them accountable.
The Brookings Institute fellow told Daily News Egypt after the debate: “If the NSF does not rely on internal resources of amazing people, then it’s not the country that needs to be saved but the NSF itself.”
Fares also explained his support of opposition groups following the debate: “We provide an economic plan that can get the country out of the economic crisis, while the Brotherhood has provided nothing in that same period.”
The New Arab Debates are funded by the British and Swedish governments with the aim of encouraging people to participate in political dialogue.
Political analyst Mohamed El-Dahshan said he loved the idea of getting people to voice their opinions, whether professionally like the New Arab Debates or on other projects empowering youth.