x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Catchphrases in vogue for FNC candidates

Candidates for the Federal National Council say they hope their campaign slogans on posters and in advertisements will make them stand out to voters.

In a move to raise their respective profiles, candidates for the upcoming FNC elections have been putting up posters all around the country to promote their campaigns. This sign can be found directly in front of the main entrance to Al Jimi Mall.
 The candidate in this poster is Dr. Hamid Mohammed Al Neyadi.
Lee Hoagland/The National
In a move to raise their respective profiles, candidates for the upcoming FNC elections have been putting up posters all around the country to promote their campaigns. This sign can be found directly in front of the main entrance to Al Jimi Mall. The candidate in this poster is Dr. Hamid Mohammed Al Neyadi. Lee Hoagland/The National

In the battle of the slogans, Emiratis campaigning for seats in this month's FNC elections have used poets, theatre personalities, proverbs and even verses from the Quran, hoping to stand out from the rest.

The slogans are everywhere, on street posters, in Arabic newspapers and in TV and radio advertisements.

"For you we work and in your name we speak," says Roya Al Ghailani, reading her slogan from a bright orange poster that is part of her campaign for one of the two seats in Fujairah.

Mrs Al Ghailani, 36, a teacher of Arabic, hired a theatre director to help her design her posters and brochures, as she will not be using a photograph of herself on them.

"I wear the niqab so I see no point in putting a picture of myself out there when no one can identify me anyway," she says.

Instead, Mrs Al Ghailani has focused on using key words and poetic expressions that promise "transparency, honour, devotion, preservation of identity, hard work and faith".

At a cost of about Dh500 for each poster and about Dh1,000 for 2000 brochures, her campaign material is in the "positive colour" of orange, with clouds and a full moon as background.

She and her campaign director spent days aligning the words and deciding on the fonts to make it appealing to anyone reading it.

"Not too crammed and not too classical," Mrs Al Ghailani says.

"We used words that we grew up on and are part of our identity and culture."

Other candidates have adopted a variety of measures to get the word out about their campaigns.

They are printing slogans on posters or making their virtual rounds using social-media tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

Some are using expressions such as "a vote is a weapon".

Still other candidates are avoiding slogans altogether, and are simply printing their names with a falcon in the back, or landscapes.

Hamed Al Neyadi, a candidate in Al Ain, is urging voters with golden print on a black poster to: "Think then decide. Your vote is important, and servicing you more important."

Rashid Al Kindi, a candidate in Abu Dhabi, vows "Your vote will be my duty and honour", while a candidate in Ras Al Khaimah, Abdullah Al Abdooli, says "Together today for a promising tomorrow".

An Ajman candidate, Saeed Al Shamsi, is quoting a Quranic verse that stipulates, "Whose rule in all matters of common concern is consultation among themselves".

The National Election Committee has outlined rules for campaigns, including that they must not "include ideas that call for provoking religious, sectarian, tribal or racist fanaticism against others".

Candidates are also banned from using any official UAE emblem or symbols.

The Dubai candidate Marwan bin Ghalaita, 39, who is also the chief executive of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority, chose a slogan with a rhythmic ring to it.

"'Ana … Antoum', or in English, 'Me … You'," says Mr bin Ghalaita. "I came up with it on the spot. If I get in, you the voter get in. We are in it together, inside the council and outside.

"We need to be careful with our slogans, as Emiratis are very educated and can spot any inconsistencies."

One nationalistic slogan is repeated by virtually all candidates: "for country".

It is often followed by vows to protect the country and its people's identity.

"It is one of the rare times it is a purely Emirati event, and so this election is all about the UAE and the Emiratis," Mr bin Ghalaita says.

Keeping a close eye on the election, Dr Suaad Al Oraimi, an Emirati sociologist at UAE University in Al Ain, says she is not surprised "country and nation" are the common themes in the campaigns.

"Service to country is the most honourable kind of service in the Emirati and Arab culture in general," Dr Al Oraimi says.

"It is part of our psyche that goes back generations."

As an observer invited from the Arab world to follow Barack Obama for 25 days during his successful US presidential campaign in 2008, Dr Al Oraimi saw first-hand what is needed in elections.

"It was very focused," she says.

"It is a whole industry and it will take time for us to grasp what is exactly needed in election campaigns. But from what I am seeing here, it is a good start."

Dr Al Oraimi says one of the biggest challenges for Emirati candidates is finding a specific cause.

"Let us be honest, the Government provides its citizens with everything," she says.

"All the basic needs like education, health, housing and jobs are provided. So what can the candidates promise that the voters don't already have?

"The slogans and promises made by many end up either unrealistic or irrelevant.

The candidates need to hit the streets and do research into what really is lacking."

 

rghazal@thenational.ae