Nation goes to the polls today

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Nation goes to the polls today

Elections are about choices, and today, some 130,000 UAE nationals will choose 20 of their compatriots who will go on to serve as their voice at the Federal National Council.

By Patrick Michael

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Published: Sat 24 Sep 2011, 8:48 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:56 AM

For the nation, this new experiment in democracy is unprecedented in terms of sheer numbers.

While just over 6,500 Emiratis voted in the first-ever FNC election in 2006 to elect 20 representatives, this year, nearly 130,000 Electoral College members go to the polling booths, situated in all seven emirates, to elect the same number of FNC members from a candidate list of over 450.

The 20 elected representatives will join another 20 members nominated by the Rulers of the seven emirates to the FNC, which was established in February 1972 as one of the five Union Authorities – the others being the Supreme Council, President and the Vice President, the Cabinet and the Judiciary.

The total FNC seats are distributed among the seven emirates with Abu Dhabi and Dubai having eight seats each; Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah having six each; and Ajman, Umm Al Quwian and Fujairah having four seats each.

At today’s elections, four candidates each in Abu Dhabi and Dubai; three each in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah; and two each from the other emirates, who get the maximum number of votes will become the winners and will go on to serve a four-year term at the FNC.

What makes the second-ever FNC election truly historic is the minimum number of Electoral College members, which is set at nearly 300 times the number of FNC seats — a clear demonstration of the qualitative and quantitative shift towards encouraging political participation.

This is compared with a minimum strength of the Electoral College set in 2006 at only 100 times the number of FNC seats — which is 4,000 — although the final Electoral College list that year had 6,595 members including 1,162 women.

At nearly 130,000 Electoral College members this year, the number of voters is over 980 times the minimum prescribed strength of 12,000.

Accordingly, the Electoral College of the UAE this year has over 47,000 members in Abu Dhabi; close to 37,500 in Dubai; about 14,000 in Sharjah; some 17,000 in Ras Al Khaimah; about 6,000 in Fujairah; nearly 4,000 in Ajman and about 3,300 in Umm Al Quwain.

There is a strong presence of women candidates too this year, nearly a 35 per cent increase over 2006, when 63 women contested the elections and one was elected, while the government nominated eight others, taking the overall representation of women in the 40-member FNC to 22.5 per cent.

The number of candidates is highest in Dubai and Abu Dhabi this year, followed by Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain — representative of the larger size of the Electoral Colleges in the individual emirates. Nearly the same trend prevails in terms of the number of women candidates across the emirates.

With electronic voting machines introduced — nearly 700 of them — the initial results will be announced later this evening. However, candidates have the right to appeal against the results, if need be, tomorrow (Sept 25) and the final results will be officially announced on September 28 (Wednesday) if no bye-election is needed.

A bye-election could be called for if any of the two top-placed candidates in an emirate poll the same number of votes. It will be held on October 1, with the initial results announced on the same day; any appeals may be made on October 2, followed by the bye-election results on October 5 and the final list of winners will be adopted by the National Election Committee on October 6.

The UAE, by then, would have underlined its thought leadership in the Arab world marking the real political participation of the public in decision making.

And on the social realm, it will the culmination of a few weeks of passionate campaigning and public interest championing with the candidates vying for votes from way-side banners and mupis; the large advertisements in the newspapers; social media and traditional evening majlises.

While the candidates tried to differentiate themselves with catchy slogans and election campaign themes, they all had one common commitment — a desire to serve the true interests of the UAE. That, indeed, is the essence of public participation in any political process. —

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