News Analysis: Opposition call for meeting with president marks major change in Egypt's politics

2013-01-30 22:49:46 GMT2013-01-31 06:49:46(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Mahmoud Fouly

CAIRO, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- As leader of Egypt's main opposition bloc called Wednesday for an urgent meeting with the president after its earlier rejection to a national dialogue, analysts see this move as a major change in the opposition's attitude that will in turn alter the country's political scene.

Mohamed ElBaradei, leader of the National Salvation Front (NSF), urged on this twitter account "an immediate meeting with president Morsi, the ministers of defense and interior, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and leaders of the Salafist parties along with the NSF to discuss the escalated violent acts in the streets."

ElBaradei' appeal came days after President Mohamed Morsi proposed to hold a national dialogue in response to recent clashes between protesters and security forces, which so far have killed more than 60 people and injured some 2,000 others.

As as preconditions for attending the dialogue, the NSF urged forming a new government and amending the constitution among others, demands they said the president did not heed.

However, on Wednesday, while the president was visiting Germany, the opposition urged a meeting with Morsi, attended by ministers of defense and interior as well as major Islamist parties.

Ali Hassan, political analyst and deputy editor-in-chief of official news agency MENA, told Xinhua that the opposition may have realized the absence of dialogue and compromise would lead Egypt to more chaos and that it might be accused of contributing to the turmoil by boycotting the dialogue.

"The NSF realized the heavy weight of the responsibility it shoulders, therefore it expressed readiness for dialogue with the government despite its earlier rejection," Hassan said.

He added that the country was heading toward an uncontrollable state of political, economic, social and security chaos, stressing sincere dialogue was the only way out of the current crisis.

The NSF also held talks Wednesday with Salafist al-Nour Party, the second biggest winner in last parliamentary polls after Morsi' s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). The meeting echoed fears over an attempt of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which Morsi hails from, to dominate state institutions.

Although it agreed with the NSF on forming a new coalition government, al-Nour Party belongs to the same Islaimist political movement as the FJP does.

Al-Nour's meeting with the NSF indicates a division with the FJP, said Hassan, pointing out that al-Nour leader Younis Makhyoun said after the meeting "the nation is not restricted to one faction" in reference to the MB.

Al-Nour Party's participation in the talk "reflects objection inside the Islamist current to the monopoly of one faction over the country's destiny," He noted.

Saeed al-Lawindy, political expert and researcher at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, sees ElBaradei's call as "a change of position that prioritizes the common good over partisanship or personal interests."

"The NSF must have realized that Egypt is in real danger," he told Xinhua, echoing Hassan that dialogue was the only way to appease the tension and resolve the ongoing issues.

Al-Lawindy agreed that the NSF also does not want to be blamed for any escalation of violence by its rejection of dialogue. "Like former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, 'those who are absent are always in the wrong'."

With regards to Wednesday's meeting between the NSF and al-Nour Party, al-Lawindy noted that it showed the Salafists' dissatisfaction with "the monopolization and exclusion policies" of their Islamist fellows from the MB.

"The Islamic current is not one solid block, particularly when the future of Egypt is at stake," al-Lawindy said, noting al-Nour' s stance was appreciated even by secularists and liberals.

However, ElBaradei's call for immediate meeting with Morsi and the NSF meeting with al-Nour do not mean that the NSF has given up its preconditions for dialogue, nor does it revoke their call for nationwide anti-government protests on Friday, as pointed out by political activist and NSF member Karima al-Hifnawi.

"There is a difference between accepting dialogue and dropping dialogue preconditions," she told Xinhua.

With regards to Friday's protests, al-Hifnawi reaffirmed they would be peaceful and the police would be responsible for any bloodshed should it occur.

Praising Egyptian people's enhanced political awareness, she said "We do not have the power to force people to protest, but they are motivated by their unmet demands for a decent standard of living, freedom and social justice."

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