UMM AL QAIWAIN // The first day of the campaign got off to a quiet start as many candidates returned to work yesterday after the Eid holidays. In an emirate where limited prospects for local employment prompt many citizens to work in neighbouring emirates, job opportunities for Emiratis and housing and support for fishermen are top the priorities for Umm Al Qaiwain campaigners.
Their plans to integrate local and federal goals mirror those of federal rulers.
The need for government integration was highlighted during last year's visit by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the February visit of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Sultan Rashid, 48, has pledged a "clear picture" to communicate people's needs to government ministries so that they can provide the most effective support to citizens.
"Everybody wants their rights," said Mr Rashid, a lawyer. "This is what we will try to give to people, to take their problems to the government. The people, they don't have hospitals, there is the need for electricity, they need jobs, they need roads, so many things."
Mr Rashid will open an office so he can meet people at any time, and has opened Twitter and Facebook accounts and a website.
"I want to give my experience to my country," Mr Rashid said. "I want to help the people through the government channels."
In April, Umm Al Qaiwain launched a three-year economic plan to market the emirate as a heritage and eco-tourism centre. For candidates and voters, local employment and infrastructure development cannot come soon enough.
Hussein Al Hajjari, 52, said health care, housing and support for fishermen will be key issues.
"I want to help the local people and 70 per cent of people in Umm Al Qaiwain are fishermen," said Mr Al Hajjari.
"They want some support from the government, like petrol or engines or nets. There are many things the government can give."
Ali Khamis, 37, a law school graduate who joined the military part-time at age 18, said his main concerns are improved post-secondary opportunities.
"I have this chance to share in my country," he said. "I worked in the military for 19 years and now I want to work with my people and work with the government to choose a good future for the people."
Mr Khamis will use Facebook, iPhone applications and his BlackBerry to communicate with voters, but stressed that traditional means of communication are key to electoral and government success.
He has erected a tent at his father's home to meet neighbours and family.
"My father tells me, 'Come Ali, they want to meet with you and speak to you' and I come and sit with them," Mr Khamis said.
"I think this is a good chance for UAE nationals because democracy comes step by step; the government doesn't push us into democracy.
"Not everybody knows what to do. The first time my name was not on the list and I saw my friends, what they did, and now my name has come on the list and I am ready."