The leaders of 15 political parties sat with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi Monday ahead of the parliamentary elections that are set to begin on 22 March. The president and the party leaders discussed their visions on the coming phase and the role of the parliament, according to presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef.
This is the first time Al-Sisi has officially sat with party heads during his seven-month presidency term. For his part, Al-Sisi took a neutral stance regarding political alliances formed ahead of the elections. However, according to politicians’ statements following the meeting, Al-Sisi expressed his desire to see all political forces united into “one inclusive coalition” that he would then endorse.
Party leaders informed Al-Sisi of their suspicions about the candidacy of political tycoon and former prime minister Kamal Al-Ganzoury, according to Younis Makhioun, the president of Salafi-affiliated Al-Nour Party. Al-Sisi assured them he was not behind Al-Ganzoury’s candidacy.
The Al-Nour Party, which represents the only Islamist force currently on the political scene, has once more announced its full alignment with the president, calling against any party’s political exclusion.
Meanwhile, the Al-Wafd Party, headed by Al-Sayed Al-Badawi, said that the meeting with Al-Sisi, which exceeded five hours, is proof that political parties have a voice in Egypt and that the state will not be biased.
However, not all politicians feel positive about a common homogenous political sphere. Secretary General Tamer Goma’a, representing Al-Dostour Party, said there was a need for a democratic environment with political diversity and a respected opposition which should not be portrayed as “non-patriotic”.
“The media is also conveying a message, that you Mr President do not accept opposition,” Goma’a continued.
Outlining his vision on a parliament that achieves policies that align with the country’s internal and external purposes, Al-Sisi recalled the inclusion of women and youth and their representation in the parliament.
Al-Sisi holds the right to appoint 27 members of the total 567 MPs, which are expected to be divided between women and youth.
Al-Sisi further stressed the major national projects aimed at development and boosting the economy, and spoke of challenges that need to be addressed such as corruption.
The Protest Law was also tackled by some, mainly the Al-Dostour Party, whose young members have adopted revolutionary speeches and are persistently pursued by security authorities.
“Our youth lies in jail because of a Protest Law that should be quickly amended according to human rights organisations’ recommendations, because truth is young people, and people on the streets as well blame you for all the mistakes of the transitional period,” Goma’a said during the meeting.
Party leaders shared their concerns on laws related to organising rights and freedoms, social justice and political life.
Those who were acquitted should be released, Al-Sisi said, adding that there must be a balance between guarantees of freedoms and rights, and restoring security and stability. Al-Sisi also repeated his call for the reconsideration of those detained under the controversial Protest Law.
The political parties in Monday’s meeting represent the country’s major political currents, and included: the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (EDSP); Al-Ghad; the Reform and Development Party; the Conference Party; the Socialist Popular Alliance; Al-Taggammu; the National Movement Party; The Free Egyptians Party; Homat Al-Watan (Guards of the Homeland); Mostakbal Watan (Future of Nation); Misr Al-Haditha ;and the Sadat Democratic Party.
Earlier mistaken news reports suggested that the Al-Dostour Party was not going to take part in the meeting. At the same time, other co-members of the party in the parliamentary coalition of the Democratic Current Alliance such as Al-Karamah Party claimed they were not invited.