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Cairo, April 9, 2013 - Egypt's political opposition came under heavy attack at a public forum here as young people accused it of lacking vision and solutions to the country's deepening economic and political crisis.
An audience at the latest session of The New Arab Debates voted 71.3% in support of the motion: "This House believes Egypt's opposition has wasted its chances and let down the people".
The debate was recorded at Al Azhar Conference Centre, Nasr City, Cairo.
Speaking for the motion, Dr. H.A. Hellyer, non-resident Fellow in Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institution, said Egypt's main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front (NSF), had provided neither leadership, nor a plan for holding the Morsi administration to account.
"After five months, I would like to see their spine... I do not see any effects on the street. They are not mobilizing people", he said. "Egypt is sleepwalking on a very fast track to economic destruction... I see a ship sinking and everyone is just screaming."
Speaking against the motion, Hossam Fares from Al Dustour Party, a member of the NSF Executive, countered repeated accusations that the group had walked away from dialogue and refused to engage with President Morsi.
He insisted the coalition did not want to be part of "deceptive talks", especially when "no one takes any notice of what you are saying." The NSF would stage a national conference in May to promote its vision for the next 7 years and would then hold public debates across the country to encourage grassroots support.
A young woman told Fares the opposition had to engage the marginalized youth of Egypt and provide economic programmes for the poor.
"You need to prove yourself to people. People need to see an organized and united opposition. They need to see action on the ground and something to inspire them otherwise they will not be engaged," she said.
While Fares repeatedly called for more time to devise and promote new policies, Hellyer insisted Egypt had no time left and needed a roadmap "to avoid catastrophe". The country, he added, deserved a better government and a better opposition.
The New Arab Debates are funded by the British and Swedish governments with the aim of encouraging people to participate in political dialogue.
The series is broadcast for the second year on Deutsche Welle TV in Arabic and English along with its global network of partner channels.

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