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.
UAE citizens residing abroad continued to come forward to vote in the Federal National Council (FNC) Elections 2015 in 94 polling stations at UAE embassies and consulates around the world. The electoral process has been extended outside the UAE for the first time in a move aimed at allowing Emirati citizens to exercise their voting rights even if they are residing in a foreign country. On the occasion, Tareq Hilal Lootah, Under-Secretary of Ministry of State for FNC Affairs and Head of the Elections Management Committee, pointed out that the polling centres abroad have provided all the facilities to the voters to enable them to effectively participate in the elections. Voting process continued without any interruptions despite an increase in voter turnout on the second day, Lootah said. UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan casted his vote at the UAE Mission to the UN on Sunday.
Just over a quarter of eligible voters cast their ballot for the second election held in the United Arab Emirates for an advisory council that the Gulf Arab state hopes will forge closer links between its rulers and the people.
Half the seats in the 40-seat Federal National Council (FNC) were contested by 468 candidates seeking the votes of the 129,000-strong electorate — just 12 percent of the Emirati nationals in the world’s No.3 oil exporter. A little over 36,000 people, or 28 percent of those eligible, had cast their ballots by the time polls closed.
“Some expected, including me, a bigger turnout,” Anwar Gargash, the minister in charge of the election, told reporters in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital.
Twenty are happy, 430 less so. They are the candidates in Saturday’s FNC elections who failed to win the voters’ favour during two and a half weeks of hard campaigning. Seven of them, all of whom stood as candidates in Ras Al Khaimah, are asking for a manual recount.
“We are going to contest this,” said Yousif Al Ghalili, a member of the Shehhi family – one of RAK’s biggest mountain tribes. His 414 votes were fewer than he expected.
“I am quite popular among my community, and just alone through family and friends that number should be at least double,” he said. He met the RAK election committee yesterday to see what could be done. Now he and six others plan to head there again today with a petition outlining their grievances.
About 130,000 voters of the United Arab Emirates elected Saturday half of the 40-member Federal National Council (FNC), the second such election in the Emirates’ 40-year history. Around 450 candidates, including more than 80 women, ran for the 20 seats in the FNC, which mainly acts as an advisory body. The other half will be appointed by the Federal Supreme Council, the country’s highest governing body.
One woman, Sheikha Isa Ghanem Al Ari from the Emirate of Umm Al Qaiwain, was elected to the FNC, said the state news agency WAM.
An encouraging number of voters from an electoral population of about 130,000 turned out to vote at 13 polling centers across the Emirates. The number of voters increased significantly compared with that of about 6,700 voters in 2006, when the first-ever election was held since the FNC was formed in 1972, a year after the federation’s independence.
In 2006, one woman was elected to the UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC) and eight others were appointed. Even before then, women had served as ministers and ambassadors of the UAE. And yet the entry of women into the UAE’s political arena has had its difficulties, just as in other Arab states.
A common mindset in this country remains fixed on certain unchanging notions of a “woman’s place”. Many of the existing political institutions reflect a male-dominated, male-orientated culture. The media seems to play a role in promoting female politicians, but some see that as a problem.
The FNC is not like a parliament where issues that affect the lives of ordinary people are debated and laws are passed; the FNC’s role at present is only advisory. Still, the effect of women on the full spectrum of political debate and development in the UAE must not be underestimated.
Despite political apathy remaining a dominant feature among young Emiratis, a growing number of youth are showing keenness to participate in the election processes and are familiarising themselves with the rules of political participation in the UAE.
Although not listed in the electoral college of the 2011 Election of the Federal National Council (FNC), a number of Emirati youth have stepped in to attend and follow the election process to learn and understand the FNC and UAE political system and prepare themselves to take part in elections in the future.
Amani Al Beloushi, 17-year-old, is one of the young Emiratis who dreams of becoming a minister in future. Although neither Amani nor her family members are part of the electoral college, she is keen to follow the election process to enable her develop her political ambitions.
In a dark auditorium, rows of men in traditional white robes and women swathed in black watch silently as computer-animated characters take their turn at electronic voting machines in a film aimed at educating them on how to vote.
On 24 September they will cast their votes for half of the United Arab Emirates’ Federal National Council (FNC), a quasi-parliamentary body designed to serve as a link between the country’s rulers and its people to build democratic institutions gradually in the Gulf Arab state.
But given that the 40-member council has no legislative authority, half its members are appointed, and only about 12 per cent of citizens – themselves handpicked by the UAE’s rulers – can vote, critics question how much substance it has.