x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Families compare notes on FNC election decision

A week into the campaign, Amina Taher's family members had already decided who they would vote for in next Saturday's FNC elections.

DUBAI // A week into the campaign, Amina Taher's family members had already decided who they would vote for in next Saturday's FNC elections.

On Friday last week, at the first family gathering since campaigning started, Ms Taher sat with more than 50 members of her family after lunch to drink tea, eat dessert and discuss the candidates.

It was a scene repeated in majlises across the country.

"Who here is eligible to vote?" was the first question Ms Taher raised.

About 20, mostly from her mother's side, were in the electorate.

"We have more females than males in the family and what is interesting is that the ratio of men to women in my family is the same ratio as the ones listed," she said. "It is interesting to have that mixture."

While some candidates were mentioned once or twice, including Maryam Al Falasi, Hind bin Jafra and Azza Sulaiman, others including Nasser Al Shaikh, Rashad Bukhash and Abdelshakur Tohlek were mentioned more often.

"We had an internal debate … based on these candidates," Ms Taher said. "We looked at who they are, are they known in the community or not, have we heard of them or not.

"We looked at their track record, qualifications, how they contributed to the Dubai economy and the social impact."

In the end, they chose two candidates: Mr Tohlek and Mr Bukhash.

Ms Taher's aunt was impressed by Maryam Al Falasi "because she seems young and dynamic", she said. But while other family members also acknowledged her campaign, they agreed they would not vote for her.

Her younger cousins had both been inclined to vote for Hind bin Jafra, an entrepreneur and fashion designer, "because she appeals to a younger demographic".

And while Mrs Sulaiman is her friend's mother, Ms Taher advised her family not to vote for people just because they knew them personally.

"We shouldn't vote for people we know just because of family or friends," she said. "We should only vote if we are planning to vote for people who deserve it."

They all agreed three weeks was not enough time to properly get to know the candidates, and decided it would be best to pick those they "grew up with".

Ahmed Al Rafi, Ms Taher's uncle, said he would vote on the basis of what people had already done for the country, not just on what they did during the campaign.

"From their jobs, we can tell which have dedicated their time to help people," Mr Al Rafi said.

"Three weeks is a short time. Voters will usually vote for people they have seen work for people in the community. But of course, media plays a role too."

He said voters might be reluctant to cast a vote solely based on media campaigns.

"If they knew the person, then they would have a reason to vote," Mr Al Rafi said.

They all agreed Mr Bukhash had a great track record, with Ms Taher praising his quick responses to her questions.

"A lot of the candidates are new to Twitter - some still didn't get the gist of it," she said. "But Rashad Bukhash and Nasser Al Shaikh, another candidate in Dubai, both started from before the campaigns on Twitter."

The second candidate to receive the family nod was Mr Tohlek.

"We have seen how active he has been," Ms Taher said. "He has a financial leadership track record and done a lot in the community."

osalem@thenational.ae