The political crisis in Egypt took a new turn after the National Democratic Party's (NDP) top executive committee resigned Saturday (February 5th), including Gamal Mubarak, the president's son, and secretary-general Safwat al-Sharif.
Hussam Badrawi, a prominent reformer in the party, will replace al-Sharif as secretary-general.
The NDP denied media reports that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was also resigning as leader of the party.
Meanwhile, a number of opposition political parties began dialogue with Vice President Omar Suleiman as protestors vowed to continue their protests until Mubarak leaves office. A number of protests are also planned for next week, dubbed "Steadfastness Week".
Contrary to some media expectations, “Departure Friday" was free of clashes between supporters of Mubarak and the hundreds of thousands of opposition protestors who converged on Tahrir Square in Cairo. The army deployed extensive security reinforcements to the square and the nearby streets in the city centre.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the Tahrir Square on Friday to protest President Mubarak's stay in power until September, which marks the end of his current term. They also demanded the formation of a constituent assembly to write a new constitution for the country.
The demonstration was pre-dominantly festive in nature. Many prominent public figures came to Tahrir Square and joined the youth in protesting against February 2nd attacks which resulted in the death of eight protestors and the injury of about 5000 people, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Health.
The youth movements called for continued protests beginning Sunday despite calls by the army to return home.
Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik told a press conference Saturday that he hopes to draw opposition parties and youth groups to dialogue over constitutional reforms.
But not all youth groups are willing to enter into dialogue before Mubarak quits. On Saturday, protestors reacted to an army general asking them to end their protests by chanting "We will not leave, he should leave".
There is a "crisis of confidence" between the demonstrating youth in Tahrir square and the Mubarak regime that is difficult to overcome at present, the First Deputy Chairman of the Arab Democratic Nasserite Party, Sameh Ashour, told Al-Shorfa.
Ashour, who represents his party in the dialogue with Suleiman, said, "Their determination to see President Mubarak leave office, and their resilience in their position stem from their lack of trust that the Egyptian regime would get them their demands to prepare a new constitution and end the domination era, through which Egypt has passed."
He said the dialogue should address guarantees that Mubarak’s regime will not skirt the pressing demands for change should the youth and the opposition end their sit-down and demonstrations. But he expressed his confidence in Suleiman.
The vice president started a round of talks with several opposition parties on Friday, telling the press they might go on for 10 days. He met with the leaders of the smaller opposition groups, as well as leaders of parties that are being established.
Mohamed Esmat al-Sadat attended the first round of talks, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Reform and Development Party, which is being established. He described the session as "listening with no commenting". There was no dialogue or discussion, he told Al-Shorfa.
Sadat said that a young man and a young woman from among the demonstrators accompanied him to the meeting. They asked Suleiman to go down to the streets in Tahrir Square and to listen to them and understand their demands.
On Saturday, Suleiman met with the main opposition parties, namely the Wafd Party, Tagammu, and the Nasserite Party. The meeting was also attended by independent prominent public figures such as constitutional expert, Dr. Yahya al-Gamal, and some of the youth who are taking part in the sit-down in Tahrir Square, who represent what they called the 25 January Movement.
Speaking to Al-Shorfa during the Friday protest, Secretary General of the Wafd Party, Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour said that his party entered the dialogue with "specific demands and a schedule for the constitutional amendments, which meet the demands of most of the Egyptian people".
Abdel Nour said the list of demands to be presented by Wafd includes constitutional amendments to articles 88 and 93 of the constitution, and adding an amendment that grants the President of the Republic the right to call for the election of a constituent assembly that will assume the responsibility of writing a new constitution for the country.
The meeting with Suleiman did not include representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood or the National Association for Change, led by Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who refuses to have hold a dialogue with the regime unless "President Mubarak leaves office, and a peaceful transition of power, and preparation of a new constitution begin."
Representatives of the April 6 youth movement were also absent. The movement announced that they insist on Mubarak leaving and on a peaceful transition of power before they begin the dialogue.
A number of independent prominent figures formed a "Wise Men committee", which declared that it will offer a number of recommendations to Suleiman to overcome the political crisis as well as amendments to the constitution and the law.
The founding statement of this committee stated that the vice president should lead the transitional phase, and that the youth should play a clear part in the national dialogue, in addition to providing sufficient assurances for a peaceful transition.