CAIRO: The National Dialogue Conference concluded its sessions on Tuesday amid criticism over the participation of figures and former members of the disbanded National Democratic Party and "marginalizing" youth.
Youth groups including the Revolution Youth Coalition and the April 6 Youth Movement boycotted the conference and called for an alternative conference exclusive to youth to discuss their initiatives; while those who opted to participate were accused of causing a commotion at the sessions.
"We invited more than 155 youth but the time didn’t allow everyone to speak so we decided to dedicate a separate day for the youth," said Abdel Aziz Hegazy, head of the conference.
"This isn’t the end of the conference, there will be more sessions in governorates and the transcription of these sessions will be presented to the researchers and recommendations will be issued," he added.
On the conference’s final day, disputes between the youth turned into physical clashes among them and with organizers.
They issued a statement calling for a new constitution in four months, holding presidential elections according to the new constitution and postponing the legislative elections for nine months and refused laws that were issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
The statement was signed by what they called the General Union of the Revolution’s Youth.
However, they were criticized by participants for their behavior.
"They don’t represent the revolution’s youth, they were in Tahrir but they aren’t part of any group," said Safwat Hegazy, member of the Coordinating Committee of the Revolution.
"Since the first day we asked Hegazy to exclude former regime members and he responded to our demand," he added.
The youth held a meeting in one of the conference’s halls and prevented media to attend accusing it of "distorting" their image and depicting them as thugs who want to ruin the conference.
"This is an attempt to attract media attention by quitting the conference and returning again; there was a mistake at the beginning but we gave more time for all participants to talk in following session," said Amr Hamzawy, political expert and moderator of the democracy sessions.
"We are beginning to put ourselves at the beginning of a safe route toward democracy and this is a beginning of a comprehensive social dialogue," he added.
Hegazy said that the conference is tasked with outlining an overview for Egypt for the next five years in the five topics it chose: democracy and human rights, human development, economic development, culture and religions dialogue and foreign policy of post-revolution Egypt.
Experts and politicians from across the political spectrum were invited to participate over three days in the sessions; however, the presence of a number of former NDP members who were accused of inciting violence against protesters in Tahrir Square caused an outrage among participating youth.
The conference’s recommendations included major legislative and constitutional amendments regarding the separation between authorities, more independence of the judicial authority and putting a strategy for the transitional period.
The recommendations included rejecting "individual decisions" by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in issuing laws, reconsidering the existence of the Shoura Council, issuing a law against discrimination, disbanding local councils and forming a single committee to supervise all elections.
There was disagreement on whether to postpone legislative elections and the type of the republican system whether presidential or parliamentary.
On the economic level, participants said that the presence of a stable political regime will foster economic development and that to revive the economy security must be restored and a clear political strategy must be laid down.
Participants urged the government to transform the economy from a service-based economy to a productive economy, focus on funding small and medium projects and achieving social justice.
At the foreign policy session, participants called for developing diplomatic ties with African countries and maintaining ties with European Union countries and developing popular relations with the United States through Congress.
Participants also called for a bigger role for the youth in the political life and in social development.
They said that the media is still operating with the pre-revolution mentality and demanded that it adopts a comforting tone rather than the frightening tone.