Council should be allowed more than advisory role, academic says
Call for FNC to be given more supervisory role
ABU DHABI // The success of the newly elected FNC will hinge on its being given a stronger supervisory role, political analysts and former members said yesterday.
A symposium to consider the recent elections led to a heated discussion between former and newly elected members on what should be done to ensure a better turnout in 2015 than last month's 27.8 per cent.
Dr Ebtisam Al Kitbi, a political science professor at United Arab Emirates University, called for the council to be given greater powers.
t should be able to do more than question ministers, she said at the forum, organised by Zayed University's college of communication and media sciences and Konrad Adenhauer Stiftung.
Dt Al Kitbi called for the constitution to be amended so that FNC members could hold government ministers accountable.
"If I had to make a choice, I would let go of the council's advisory power. The supervisory power is much more important," she said.
"To give me the ability to really question a minister, to remove the vote of confidence from him, to give me a proper role."
Dr Al Kitbi said new committees should be formed with an investigative role. The FNC relies on its members' own research, field visits and the Audit Bureau's reports.
Ahmed Shabeeb Al Dhaheri, a former deputy speaker of the FNC, said the key role of any member of parliament was to hold ministers accountable. Members needed a forum in which they could make suggestions on which laws could later be based, he said.
In the case of this week's road accidents in thick fog, he said he would like to question the measures taken by the Ministry of Interior.
"Where are you, Ministry of Interior, in solving the problem?" he said. "What comes out of it could be a suggestion, for example to lower speed."
More powers, said Dr Al Kitbi, could lead to a larger turnout of voters.
Nasser Al Shaikh, a former Dubai candidate, said an effort should be made between now and 2015 to ensure greater participation in the next elections.
Mr Al Dhaheri said there was a "general feeling" that there would be universal suffrage in the next elections. "There is a feeling that everyone will get a vote," he said.
And voters could choose all 40 members of the council, he said. Until now, half the council has been elected and the other half appointed.
He also suggested the current system of voters being able to choose several candidates might change. "That might disappear next time, voters might get only one vote," he said. "In Saudi Arabia they had more than one vote, and that changed to one." That, he suggested, could solve the problem of scattered votes.
Sheikha Eisa Ghanem, the only women elected, from Umm al Qaiwain, said there should also be a better screening process for candidates.
"Not anyone should be able to be a candidate," she said. "How can it be that one of the rules of the NEC is for a person to be only literate, and then they are expected to discuss local and regional issues?"
Last month there were 450 candidates, 85 of them women.
"For me it was easy and simple," she said. "I didn't understand why people advertised so much and worked so hard."
Salem Al Ameri, one of the the three members of his family to win a seat in Abu Dhabi, played down suggestions that tribal loyalties had been a major force in voting.
"If this was true then I would have had the same number of votes as other Al Ameris, but that didn't happen," he said. "We won out of our hard work."
Under the constitution. the first meeting of the new FNC should take place on or before November 21.