KT edit: FNC elections are a pact with UAE citizens
Seventy-eight women were in the fray during elections in 2015, but only one managed to win her race.
Elections to the fourth Federal National Council are scheduled for October and the response from Emiratis who are eager to have a say in governance is encouraging going by the number of people turning up to register their candidature. On the first day it was reported that 194 citizens filed their papers to contest the polls. This bodes well for the future of the Council which serves as a consultative body and debates decisions taken by the government and the impact on people. What's interesting this year is the rise of women candidates who will form half the 40-member council under a decree issued by the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Women and youth are the focus of the leadership who want them to shoulder more political responsibility, ask pertinent questions and come up with solutions for the welfare of society. The current Council has been a path-breaker of sorts with a series of decisions that have transformed the process of governance. Amal Al Qubaisi became the first woman speaker of the FNC, a first for the region. Seventy-eight women were in the fray during elections in 2015, but only one managed to win her race.
The number of women running this time will be closely watched and early indications point to more participation. The leadership has given women an incentive by reserving 20 seats for them whether or not they win electoral contests. And with a speaker who is an inspiration, Emirati women believe they are second to none when it comes to a political role in the the country. Eight women were appointed last year, which included speaker Qubaisi. This took women's representation to nine in the house but the winning potential of women candidates has been enhanced in these elections. The focus on women, and giving them prominent roles in the cabinet proves the government means business when it comes to social change. Political and social reforms are being rolled out in tandem and also in tune with the changing times. The economy is being diversified away from oil, and it helps to see more females at the helm of affairs in both the corporate sector and politics. Voter turnout was 35 per cent last time, but this figure is set to rise this year with the electoral rolls being expanded. The FNC elections show the country's intention to gradually move towards a more open and inclusive advisory system that fulfils the aspirations of all citizens. The Council has powers to amend or reject federal draft laws including financial bills. It can examine the draft of the annual general budget and can discuss international treaties, while suggesting changes and giving recommendations. The FNC is indeed widening its scope and influence while empowering women. It's now up to the new batch of lawmakers to deliver on their electoral promises.