“National Dialogue” in Egypt Was Just Empty Symbolism

The crisis in Egypt is over after two weeks of turmoil. President Mohammed Morsi met with the opposition on Saturday, and the two sides have come to an agreement – there are some rabble-rousers who are against Mr Morsi no matter what, but they’re basically crying over spilt milk and cannot really be satisfied in any event.

That is the narrative, at least, that is being offered to the media. The reality, however, is quite different.

Mr Morsi did not, in fact, meet “the opposition” on Saturday, or resolve his differences with them in a marathon set of talks. The reality is that the opposition figures who have been significant over the past two weeks did not even show up.

The former presidential candidates – Hamdeen Sabahi, Abdel Moneim Abul Foutuh and Amr Moussa – who together received almost half of the votes cast in the first round of the presidential election earlier this year, refused to attend. Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the IAEA and Nobel laureate, also did not come.

In the end, the “opposition” that Mr Morsi met included people who were advisers to him until very recently, such as the moderate Islamist academic Mohammed Salim Al Awa. None of those in attendance has any influence on the street protest movement.

And some of those who did show up left almost immediately, including Mr Morsi – the president gave a speech that lasted only a few minutes, and then handed over responsibility to his vice-president, Mahmoud Mekki. When Mr Al Awa then spoke on behalf of the “national dialogue” later on, it was clear that the actual opposition was not participating.

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