x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

All systems go for FNC elections

Final preparations had been made and voting was expected to be smooth sailing when the polls opened this morning.

Emiratis cast their votes at the UAE Federal National Council Election 2011 at the Sharjah Expo Centre.
Emiratis cast their votes at the UAE Federal National Council Election 2011 at the Sharjah Expo Centre.

ABU DHABI // More than 13 polling stations across the country are fully equipped and prepared to host an estimated 130,000 Emiratis who can vote for Federal National Council candidates today.

While the number of voters is nearly 20 times the number from the 2006 election, the National Election Committee (NEC) said yesterday that all the final preparations have been made.

Polling stations will be open from 8am to 7pm. The NEC has said it expects to announce results within an hour of the polls closing.

Lt Gen Saif Abdullah Al Shafaar, the Ministry of Interior undersecretary and head of the higher security committee for FNC elections, said that order and security will prevail at the polling stations.

Lt Gen Al Shafaar told Wam, the state news agency, that the ministry has put in place "precautionary and preventive measures to secure the elections".

Maryam Al Falasi, a Dubai candidate, said she is excited about the election and will make sure to get to the polling station even before it opens.

"It is a very important event, not just for me as an individual, but also for the nation," she said. "I will be there from very early to live it minute-by-minute with all the excitement of it."

Ms al Falasi will vote at the World Trade Centre polling station, and her representative, Shamsa Al Falasi, will maintain a presence at the exhibition hall polling station.

Today will mark the second time that half the body of 40 members will be elected by the community. In previous years, all seats were held by members chosen by rulers from all seven emirates. The FNC was created in 1972 and its duties include revising and amending bills.

The number of candidates standing for election has remained about the same since 2006; 450 remain in the draw this year after 19 candidates dropped out.

Forty-six per cent of the electorate is female, easily more than double the percentage in the 2006 election.

Candidates were warned this week against placing unlicensed billboards along roadsides after all approved promotional channels were booked, Mohammed Saeed Al Neyadi, the municipal official who is in charge of organising and monitoring advertisements in Al Ain, said in an interview.

The election process has been monitored closely by NEC officials who are determined to ensure a fair outcome.

Candidates were given the opportunity to attend one of four workshops, organised by the NEC, on the do's and don'ts of campaigning.

There has been a flurry of last-minute campaigning as the allotted period has come to a close.

In the seven days through September 17, a total of 54 pages worth of adverts were placed in four Arabic newspapers - up almost 50 per cent from the week before.

Candidates or their representatives will not be allowed to promote themselves at polling stations today. Voters must leave the premises as soon as they cast their vote.

As with the 2006 election, voting will be conducted electronically.

Voters will be asked to scan their national ID cards and offer an electronic fingerprint as a means of reducing the possibility of fraud, officials said. This will prevent duplicate votes being cast or unauthorised voters.