x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

FNC campaign hidden from rivals … until now

An FNC candidate from Umm Al Qaiwain, who is competing against two of his cousins among the 18 other candidates from that emirate, said he waited until today to release his platform out of fear that others would steal it.

Nasser Al Osaiba at Palma beach resort in Umm Al Qaiwain. He says his legal expertise will help him turn ideas into action. Pawan Singh / The National
Nasser Al Osaiba at Palma beach resort in Umm Al Qaiwain. He says his legal expertise will help him turn ideas into action. Pawan Singh / The National

UMM AL QAIWAIN // After two weeks of fierce competition between FNC candidates, which led to many looking for new areas to erect their posters, one hopeful has kept his campaign a secret - until today.

"Last elections I announced my campaign and lots of candidates took what I said and announced it to people as their ideas," says Nasser Al Osaiba, 35, a lawyer from Umm Al Qaiwain.

Mr Al Osaiba says this time he has held back and watched the others, delaying the official launch of his campaign until just days before the September 24 elections.

"Your voice in the council," he says, reading out his slogan.

Unlike other candidates, Mr Al Osaiba does not have a list of pledges, just this one: "I will focus on the legislative issues of FNC, and using what is already there to the benefit of the citizen."

Mr Al Osaiba says his legal expertise will help him turn ideas into action.

"The FNC has powers, but these powers are very technical and it needs someone who can read the constitution and who can read laws regulating the Federal National Council work in terms of summoning or calling the federal employees and ministers," he says.

Mr Al Osaiba is competing against 18 other candidates, among them four women, for two seats in this month's FNC election in Umm Al Qaiwain.

Two of those competitors are his cousins.

His father is the former FNC member Ahmad Nasser Al Osaiba, who was among the first group of members in 1972, and the young lawyer is hoping to continue a family tradition.

"In 2006, voters were more confused and unsure," Mr Al Osaiba says. "Now they are asking questions and are more aware of their responsibilities, so I believe I have a good chance."

Candidates in the emirate agree it is more of a "family competition" at the end of the day.

"We are all from a village, and we are all brothers and cousins," says Khalfan bin Youkha, another candidate from Umm Al Qaiwain.

Mr bin Youkha, 48, a retired army brigadier general, says knowing your competition is a good and a bad thing.

"On the one hand it is a great thing, because then whoever wins means he or she has the full confidence of the families of Umm Al Qaiwain, and there will be a brother or a sister representing us who we all already know and can talk to," says Mr bin Youkha.

"But if you lose, then you lose a bit of face and some may take it personally."

Like other candidates from across the UAE, it wasn't until this month Mr bin Youkha ventured into the virtual world of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Creating a personal website with links to all these social tools, he says, has been an essential and educational part of "self-development".

"Just by running and having discussions with voters, I learnt a lot," Mr bin Youkha says.

As a father of seven, he is already feeling the benefits of candidacy.

"I believe this election will change a lot of us, and help open our minds and reconnect with the younger generation," he says.

For the candidate Aisha Rashid Al Ali, 34, a businesswoman and abaya designer, this election is all about "giving back".

"Emirati women need to give back to the Government that always helped and supported the woman along at each vital stage of her life," said Mrs Al Ali, a mother of five.

"So I really don't believe using slogans about giving women more rights makes any sense in the UAE.

"We have rights and we need to push ourselves to use them and make something of ourselves."

Having a daughter of 10 who is unable to walk, Mrs Al Ali says services for the disabled will be one of the areas in which she wants to push for "practical reforms".

"The laws are there to help integrate this special segment of the society, but nothing on the practical level, especially not in the Northern Emirates," she says.

"There are no services to accommodate and help them lead a normal life."

Mrs Al Ali agrees that since "everyone knows everyone else", the elections in Umm Al Qaiwain are different from those in the rest of the emirates.

"It is more charged and intense here," she says.