x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Candidates reflect on campaign

For candidates, campaign was about meeting people

Some used Facebook to get their message across, others did it face to face. Some took out adverts in newspapers, radio and TV, others held daily meetings. But in interviews yesterday, Federal National Council candidates were unanimous in saying that they had enjoyed the experience.

"I met in this period of time more people than in a lifetime," said Moza Al Otaiba, an Abu Dhabi candidate. "I knew they knew me as I am a public figure, but I got a chance to know them."

Like many other candidates, Miss Al Otaiba took the opportunity to head out to Al Gharbia and Al Ain to meet residents.

"I met people in their homes," she said. "It is not enough to have an election location. Because the election experience is very new to UAE society, there is less chance that people will come and visit you than of you going to their houses and sitting and talking to them."

And she found many voters willing to open up to her about the local problems affecting their lives. "When they are in their homes, they are comfortable," she said.

Yesterday, with less than 48 hours before election day, she said life was calmer.

"I have never worked as hard in my life than in this campaign," she said. "Today is much calmer - I have done everything I can do - I reached people."

If the candidates had one wish, it would have been for a longer campaign.

Mohamed Saeed Al Muhirbi, another Abu Dhabi candidate, was one of several who felt 17 days was too little time to campaign. The campaign rules were also over-prescriptive, he said.

"But other than that the experience was good, the candidates were good to each - not like other countries," he said. "They showed respect to each other."

Abdulrazak Al Hashemi, a Dubai candidate, agreed the campaigning period was short, but was glad it was easier than he expected.

"The time was not long, unfortunately everything was pushed," he said. "But it was ok, I have no grudges, no jealousy. I did this for my nation as a patriotic act."

Maryam Al Falasi, another Dubai candidate, was thrilled with the higher level of political awareness.

"There was a lot of participation this year, much more than last time," she said. "Awareness is there, much more than before. But it still needs time to help it grow."

Throughout her campaign, she has been filled with excitement, she said. And now, with the election just hours away, her excitement has increased.

"I have been dealing with people from different backgrounds and with different awareness levels of the election," she said.

She had used Twitter and Facebook to connect with the public - and previous candidates - which she said had helped her adapt her campaign as it went on.

"Taking some of comments from them and putting them into action was very helpful," she said. "For example, a conference was not part of my campaign, I was asked to hold it, and it was very successful.

"It was a new experience and a great experience to learn from," she said.