x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

FNC campaign hits heights in Fujairah

Candidates for the FNC in Fujairah are running against their own bosses, relying on family connections, and one has the support of a former member.

Ghareeb Ahmed Al Saridi, left, is an FNC candidate and his campaign is overseen by a former member, Dr Sultan Al Moazen, right.
Ghareeb Ahmed Al Saridi, left, is an FNC candidate and his campaign is overseen by a former member, Dr Sultan Al Moazen, right.

FUJAIRAH // In an emirate where tribal affiliations are strong, an outspoken former FNC member is backing a potential successor, one candidate is competing against her own boss and others are depending on family connections.

"I checked out who were the candidates from Fujairah, and decided to support who I felt was the best among them," said Dr Sultan Al Moazen, 31, a former FNC member from Fujairah who is advising and supporting the campaign of Ghareeb Ahmed Al Saridi for the September 24 elections.

A member of Al Saridi mountain tribe, whose father and grandfather were chiefs of the tribe, the 50-year-old, soft-spoken Mr Al Saridi is a stark contrast to his younger supporter.

On the FNC for four years from 2006, Dr Al Moazen regularly called for the council's powers to be widened, and criticised the council speaker's management of the sessions.

"These are quite impressive footsteps I have to fill if I get elected," Mr Al Saridi said.

There were initially 21 FNC candidates in Fujairah, but one of them withdrew on the first day of the campaign, leaving 17 men and three women.

While there is heavy campaigning between villages and families, two candidates are from the same place of work: one is a boss, the other is one of his employees.

"Everyone has a right to put forth their candidacy regardless of where they work or even if they don't work," said the candidate Saeed Abdullah Maksah, 39, the general manager of Fujairah Authority for Tourism and Antiquities.

Mouza Saeed Nowaylah, a media coordinator and writer for the authority, turned 25 on September 5, just two days after launching her election campaign.

“It is interesting to see how it all pans out, and if the more senior candidates will all end up winning,” Ms Nowaylah said.

Mr Maksah said he doesn’t consider the election a contest between boss and employee: they are competing for two seats, not one, against the other candidates.

“This reflects that we are participating in a real democratic election, where positions and titles don’t matter and anyone can compete and try out their best to win a seat,” Mr Maksah said.

“To me, the most important issue is for the winning candidate to be up to the job and represent Fujairah well with decorum and vision. I want the best candidate to win.”

For Ms Nowaylah, the election is important as a turning point for female candidates to stand up and have their voices heard in a conservative emirate.

“I really hope a woman wins, as that will be historic on so many levels,” she said.

Like other candidates from the mountainous emirate, Mr Al Saridi has focused his campaign on tackling the impact of quarries, and the flooding of homes from extreme weather.

“Health is one of the biggest concerns we have in Fujairah, where people are actually scared to do any major operations at a Fujairah hospital,” said Mr Al Saridi.

His posters and others have found their way inside and across Fujairah’s furthest mountain villages.

Some candidates have driven into these villages to meet voters in temporary majlis, set up inside tents.

“We found that many of the voters were complaining about housing. Where several married couples live in a single house,” Mr Al Saridi said.

“So we will push for bigger and more housing for families in Fujairah and for improvements in the roads and infrastructure in mountainous neighbourhoods.”

To encourage and instill some election fever in younger generations, Dr Al Moazen got some of the neighbourhood boys to help in setting up posters and attending meetings with voters, in support of Mr Al Saridi.“It is important to get the children involved, and introduce the election culture into our homes,” he said.

One such boy is eight-year-old Abdullah Sulaiman, who has helped by carrying brochures and posters.

“I want him to win,” Abdullah said, referring to Mr Al Saridi, whom he calls “uncle” out of respect. “It is fun to hang posters.”

rghazal@thenational.ae