A file photo of a previous meeting of the Board of Trustees of the National Dailogue
The board said on Monday the dialogue will commence on 3 May - after the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan and the holidays of Eid El-Fitr, Sinai Liberation Day, Easter and Labour Day.
Senator Hossam El-Khouly, the deputy chairperson of the Mostaqbal Watan Party, welcomed the announcement, saying "the kick-off of the national dialogue will re-energise political life and contribute to the drawing of a new roadmap for Egypt's political and economic priorities in the next phase.”
El-Khouly added that “the Mostaqbal Watan Party fully supports the return of complete judicial supervision, meaning there will be a judge for every ballot box. This sends a message that the 2024 presidential and 2025 parliamentary elections will be conducted with integrity, transparency and fairness.”
On Sunday, the Board of Trustees of the National Dialogue proposed an amendment to the law governing the work of the National Election Authority (NEA) in order to to extend the authority's mandate to supervise all types of referendums and elections, which is set to expire in January 2024.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi directed the government on Monday to study the trustees board’s proposal and its implementation mechanisms.
Ahmed El-Sharkawy, a member of the trustees board, explained “the board has proposed amending Article 34 of the NEA Law 198/2017 to stipulate that “all elections, including presidential, parliamentary and municipal, as well as referendums, shall be supervised by judicial members under the principle of "a judge for every ballot box.”
Article 34 of the NEA Law 198/2017 stipulates that voting and counting of votes in referendums and elections are carried out by staff affiliated with the authority under the supervision of its board of directors, and the authority may enlist members of judicial bodies in this process.
The article also mandated, as a provisional measure, full judicial supervision over referendums and elections for a period of 10 years from the time of the adoption of the country's constitution in 2014. According to this 10-year-mandate, full judicial supervision over referendums and elections is set to expire in January 2024.
El-Sharkawy noted that this principle of "judge per ballot box" was applied in Egypt from 2000 to 2010 and its removal was one of the main reasons for the 2011 Revolution against Mubarak.
He added that since 2011, elections and referendums in Egypt have been held under general judicial supervision, but without the application of the principle of a judge for every ballot box.
"This means that judges will not only supervise polling stations but will also supervise every ballot box, including the vote-counting process," said El-Sharkawy.
“This should guarantee that all elections in the next few years will be fair and difficult to manipulate in any way or form," he added.
The Nation's Guardians Party also welcomed the announcement.
In a statement on Monday, the party said that "the decision to kick off the National Dialogue on 3 May is a positive development that can help crystallise a new agenda of economic and political reforms."
The liberal Al-Wafd party also welcomed the announcement, saying that it was "a very important step towards political reform.”
Meanwhile, the Reform and Development Party, which is led by Mohamed Anwar Esmat El-Sadat, expressed satisfaction with the decision to start the national dialogue.
"They took a lot of time – almost one year. It is good anyway that it comes late rather than never coming at all."
“The party hopes the dialogue will usher Egypt into a new era of groundbreaking political reforms and freedoms,” read a statement by the party.
The Reform and Development Party also praised the return of the "judge for every ballot box" system.
This system “allowed for a healthy political life and created vibrant parliaments when it was in place,” said the party.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Civil Democratic Movement – an opposition movement formed in 2017 that includes various leftist and liberal political parties – said in a statement on Monday that "we have no objection to the proposal that the dialogue kicks off on 3 May. We support any proposal that can lead to a serious and positive national dialogue.”
The movement stressed, however, that it wants all political prisoners to be released ahead of the start of the dialogue to create a favourable climate.