ABU DHABI // More than 100 Emiratis signed up as Federal National Council candidates yesterday on the first day of registration for elections to the country's consultative council.
Of the 129 who registered, 27 were in Abu Dhabi, 36 in Dubai, 29 in Sharjah, 16 in Ras Al Khaimah, 10 in Ajman, seven in Umm Al Qaiwain and four in Fujairah.
Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, inspected the registration process in Abu Dhabi. "Work so far is good," he said. "The numbers are encouraging."
Would-be candidates in each emirate had their required documents - Emirates ID card, family book, certificate of good conduct from the Ministry of Interior and completed registration forms - reviewed by NEC officials.
A police official said one person was turned away in Abu Dhabi for having a mark on their criminal record.
"It is only people with a record of a court case against them, not those who had a court case against someone else," he said.
Those who are employed were also expected to bring a letter from their employer stating they would be excused from work between August 28 and September 28.
With documentation in hand, the candidates were ushered to a waiting area before being registered in a computer system and paying a registration fee of Dh1,000.
Nominees at the World Trade Centre in Dubai said the process was smooth and efficient.
"It was far simpler than I expected," said Khalid Al Awar, a 27-year-old private business owner.
"I thought it might be complicated and take a long time but it took less than 10 minutes."
Tariq Hilal Lootah, the undersecretary of the Ministry of State for FNC Affairs, said: "The process is very simple, we have an electronic programme so there is no need to do much paperwork."
Mansouri bin Nassar, the director of the Federal Electoral Commission in Sharjah, said each registration there took between five and seven minutes to process.
"We had a rush at around 9am, when 10 people registered in one hour," he said.
Salim bin Huwaidan from Al Dhaid was the 20th person to register in Sharjah at around midday. He predicted competition would be fierce.
"It shocked me to learn that 19 people had registered before me in the morning," he said. "I think Emiratis are taking it very seriously this time. Let's pray the number doesn't go to 100 by the end of four days or it will be a real battle."
There were 452 candidates who contested the 2006 elections, but Dr Gargash said he expected the number to be far higher this year due to the significant expansion of the electoral college.
He added that he expected the number of women registering to be high, too, as they account for 46 per cent of the electoral college.
The first woman to register in Abu Dhabi was Noora Al Nuwais, an international relations adviser working on her doctorate at UAE University.
She, as well as many other Emirati women who arrived after her, agreed that Dr Amal Al Qubaisi's successful term in the FNC had encouraged them to come forward. Dr Al Qubaisi was the only women elected in 2006.
"She proved that women were very much capable of taking on that role," Mrs Al Nuwais said.
Registration will continue today at nine centres across the country, and will conclude on Wednesday.
A preliminary list of candidates will be announced next Saturday and any objections will be considered from August 21 to 23.
Then the final list of candidates will be announced on August 28, and campaigning from September 4 to 21.
Assad Al Rashidi, a 26-year-old petroleum engineer who registered in Abu Dhabi, said he planned to spend between Dh500,000 and Dh1 million on his election campaign.
"Of course I will use banners, hold lectures, do a lot to communicate with people," he said.
The NEC has placed a spending cap of Dh2m on campaigns this year.