The United Arab Emirates held a tightly controlled election Saturday for its largely advisory Federal National Council, though only just over a third of those Emiratis allowed to vote by their rulers cast a ballot. While authorities heralded the election as a success, the third-ever such poll in the seven-state federation that includes oil-rich Abu Dhabi and the commercial hub of Dubai largely failed to excite those granted the opportunity to vote. That may have been due in part to the scope of the council’s powers. The 40-member panel considers federal laws and provides oversight of government ministries, though it rarely opposes the decisions or recommendations of the country’s ruling sheikhs.
Up until 2006, the sheikhs picked all the members of the council. Now, they pick half of its 40 members, while the other half are voted in by an electoral college comprised of members selected by the rulers. In 2006, the first election saw a 74-percent turnout among the 6,689 Emiratis eligible to vote. But when the pool widened to 129,274 voters in 2011, it saw only 36,277 cast ballots — a 28-percent turnout.
In returns carried by the state-run WAM news agency late Saturday night, 79,157 of 224,279 eligible voters took part in the election, which included voting abroad, early voting and an Election Day on Saturday. That put the turnout at 35.29 percent, though over 40,000 more voters took part this time as compared to 2011.
“This election process is considered a successful one by all standards,” state-backed media quoted Anwar Gargash, the minister of state for foreign affairs and Federal National Council affairs, as saying. “Through team work, the UAE succeeds and continues to prosper, grow and develop.”