Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

FNC polls lay the groundwork for a better future

The council elections allow the citizens of the UAE to help shape the destiny of their country

Residents after casting their votes for the FNC elections held at the ADNEC in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National
Residents after casting their votes for the FNC elections held at the ADNEC in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National

The UAE made history when it held its first elections for the Federal National Council 13 years ago this week. The FNC was formed under the Provisional Constitution in 1971, when its members were appointed by the Government. Citizens have been allowed and encouraged to vote since 2006. Today, half of the FNC’s 40 representatives are elected, while the rest are appointed.

When Emiratis voted for the country’s fourth elections this month, the number of eligible voters had reached a record number of 337,738, up from just a few thousand in 2006. We now know that voters turned out in record numbers this year, with 117,592 citizens casting their ballot at 39 voting centres. Approximately 500 candidates competed in the process and votes were cast using efficient electronic systems to verify the preferences of the electorate.

These figures are encouraging as, indeed, was the excitement evident at voting centres, where traditional dances and bagpipe music filled the air while volunteers made sure that everything was running smoothly. Voter participation, engagement and enthusiasm are all important elements in the parliamentary process.

But there is always room for improvement. While the number of Emiratis who went to cast their vote is unprecedented, the turnout stood at nearly 35 per cent. We hope that more people will vote in the future, as FNC elections are a chance for citizens to voice their opinions and have a say in their country’s future.

The FNC performs a crucial role in advancing conversations and regulations about the issues that affect the country. Over this newspaper’s years of covering the chamber we have reported on a diverse range of topics that have been brought up by the FNC. The work that it did on child safety and protection, for instance, was nothing short of vital.

FNC elections are a chance for citizens to voice their opinions and have a say in their country’s future

Women have played a considerable role in shaping this country’s future and will do so to a greater extent after this year’s election. The number of female candidates has more than doubled this year, in comparison to the 2015 elections.

Today, nearly one in three elected representatives is a woman, a ratio that exceeds that of women in the UK House of Commons and the US House of Representatives. And once the remaining 20 members of the FNC are appointed, men and women will be equally represented at the council, thanks to a gender equality directive issued by President Sheikh Khalifa earlier this year.

Since its foundation, the UAE has come a long way to make space for its citizens to discuss their concerns and express their hopes and dreams for their country. Now that elections are over, it is up to each of the representatives to remain true to the responsibility bestowed upon them by their local communities. They have an opportunity to raise awareness and promote the issues that are most significant for the country, and are a key component in its continued advancement.

Updated: October 6, 2019 06:40 PM

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