x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Candidates spent Dh54m on FNC campaign, report shows

With a Dh2m cap in place, the biggest-spending candidate, who spent Dh1,578,092 on the campaign, was in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // The 450 candidates in September's FNC elections spent more than Dh50 million between them, the report by the National Election Committee reveals.

Spending totalled Dh54,725,062 in the 17 days of campaigning.

With a Dh2m cap in place, the biggest-spending candidate, who spent Dh1,578,092 on the campaign, was in Abu Dhabi. The report does not reveal whether that was enough to secure victory.

Not everyone was so keen to spend. The lowest spenders were in Dubai and Fujairah, where a candidate in each emirate spent Dh1,000.

Spending in the Northern Emirates was far less than in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, both of which had four available seats. The next highest was Ras Al Khaimah, where 59 candidates fought for two seats.

"There was a lot of candidates," said Ahmed Al Shihi, a losing RAK candidate who did not remember how much he spent except that it was "a lot".

"The problem was that we only have two media companies in RAK, and both raised their prices during campaign so we were forced to pay a large sum of money."

But spending on billboards and other advertising appeared to have little to do with success. Umm Al Quwain recorded the highest turnout, at 54.7 per cent, but the lowest spending, with a total of only Dh1.4m.

Abu Dhabi, the emirate with the biggest expenditure, Dh27,579,546, also had the lowest turnout, at just 21.4 per cent of registered voters. Dubai had a turnout of only 24.7 per cent but spending of Dh13,248,510.

Many losing candidates, all of whom asked not to be identified, said they appealed to the election committee about their more profligate rivals.

"The cap needed to be less," said one losing candidate from Abu Dhabi, who spent Dh30,000 on his campaign. "And I am sure some of them spent more and they did not tell the election committee."

Candidates on a budget opted for social networks, including BlackBerry Messenger, to reach younger voters. But it was in vain, as they were the least likely voters to show up at the polls.

Not all wanted a lower cap. Hassam Al Mari, a losing Dubai candidate, suggested it should have been higher.

"The one who wins must be known to people," Mr Al Mari said. "They need a proper campaign so that people get to know him through brochures and other means."

He was surprised to hear that some candidates had spent as little as Dh1,000.

"That is not enough to run a campaign seriously," Mr Al Mari said.

osalem@thenational.ae