We should also have polls to elect FNC members, say locals

ABU DHABI — A call for elected Federal National Council has been made by some academicians as also FNC members.

By Nada S. Mussalam, Ibrahim Taha, Muawia E. Ibrahim

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Published: Thu 24 Feb 2005, 9:30 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:36 PM

Professor Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah of the UAE University said when millions of Arabs in Palestine, Iraq and Saudi Arabia have participated in the election process, UAE cannot lag behind. Dr Saeed Hareb, another professor, said he too favouredelections to the FNC.

The UAE should not copy the so-called democratic system of other Arab countries when electing members to the Federal National Council, as their experience has proved to be far from genuine and marked by hypocrisy, according to many FNC members. While many believe that the UAE consultative councils are doing well, others feel that some changes are needed to ensure transparency, openness, and better performance to ensure national interests. Of late, calls for openness and change for the better have repeatedly been made even by senior government officials, which is seen as a good sign and a healthy atmosphere.

Many UAE nationals see the way consultative houses — equivalent to parliaments in other countries — function, in terms of members’ nomination, as fair, while some call for a change in this system i.e. members should be elected. However, most of those interviewed by ‘Khaleej Times’ were a bit sceptical or cautious regarding the issue of election of members of the Federal National Council (FNC) and consultative councils in the emirates.

Khalifa Jumma Al Naboda, FNC member, says he supports the idea of having elected members, but he warns that extra care should be taken to avoid copying some Arab parliamentary experiences, which he described as hypocritical. “I strongly support the idea of having elected members in the House. I think there is no difference between members appointed by the government and any other government employees. The parliament, I believe, is like a second eye to the government, with the principal task of drawing attention of the government to all kinds of encroachments or lack of legislations. But when we say the government, we point to a group of ministers. I believe, however, that most parliaments in Arab countries are rife with hypocrisy and influence, as it is clear that some of the parliamentary members are not elected because of their leadership qualifities, but for having some influence or for launching huge promotional campaigns. Contrary to what happnes in some other Arab countries, I believe this won’t happen in the UAE once elections are held as parliamentarians do not expect any personal gains from their posts as members of the FNC. Another important issue being debated is the presence of women in parliament. I think FNC members must be elected and women should be given a chance to occupy seats in the House.”

Mohammed Rashid Al Nasiri, National Consultative Council (NCC) Member says “what really matters are the achievements of the House in tackling important issues in various fields. I think the House enjoys transparency and the NCC door is wide open for constructive criticism. In some Arab countries, elected parliaments do not meet the aspirations of the people. The NCC has proved its efficiency in issuing recommendations that were forwarded to the higher authorities, and it has made a difference strongly felt by the people. I think the UAE’s demographic situation does not warrant a parliamentary election, because nationals represent only around 30 per cent of the country’s total population. Appointed members have so far served the country in different fields and proved their efficacy.”

Mohammed bin Ali Al Nagbi, another FNC member, says he is against the idea of an election, but he said he would support it as long as it came from within and was not imposed in response to external pressure. “I am not with the idea of election of FNC members. But if it comes from the UAE government, and is not imposed by external pressure, I would support it,” he stated.

On whether or not he would contest the elections in case they were held, Mr Nagbi said: “No”, adding that he would prefer to leave the floor to young educated and experienced UAE nationals. A senior government official said there were a lot of things that are mixed up, regarding this issue. “In my personal and official capacity, I would prefer that things remain unchanged. However, if we look at the issue objectively and constructively, UAE leaders should allow the people more room for expression through councils that are elected democratically and legally. If we take a look at the Arab countries that follow the system of elections, the so-called democracy, we find that the result is not too good,” he noted, questioning the genuineness of those results. He said though democratic elections have advantages, they have disavantages too, including the spread of corruption, bribes, favouritism etc. Another government official was in favour of electing council members in a liberal and democratic system. He said such a move would usher in many changes.

Shamma, a UAE national female mass communication student, said shifting to an electoral system would be an important move, saying that new faces always come up with new ideas regarding different issues. But she believes that if the move is imported, then it would definitely be rejected by UAE nationals. However, she says that if the idea comes from within, then everybody should accept it and support it.

Ahlam, an interior designer who is in favour of elections, said women should be given a quota in each consultative house. “We now have a woman minister which is a breakthrough, but we look forward to have women in national councils and other political fields too,” she added.

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