x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

FNC candidate says members 'should not be afraid of media'

Rashid Al Kindi Al Marar is unique in standing for FNC re-election

ABU DHABI // Rashid Al Kindi Al Marar, the only former Federal National Council member standing for re-election this month, says there are three types of candidates: the winners, the participants, and the distractions.

"There are ones who are in it to win, and then there are ones who want to take on the challenge, but do not want to win, and ones who are fillers - they are just there to distract voters," said Mr Al Marar, who is standing again in Abu Dhabi.

His 2011 campaign differs from his last, in that he now has a record to stand on.

"In my first campaign I wanted salaries to rise - and they have," he said. "I wanted health services to improve and the number of clinics to increase. That has all happened too, now there is a clinic everywhere."

Now he is calling for a new body to be established to track down corruption. "Through my experience on the FNC, I have noticed a high amount of corruption," he said. Previously, he says, this was easy to track because the FNC were sent audit bureau reports.

"But while the FNC has been on a break, they [the audit bureau] decided to be independent from the FNC. I want it to come back and work with the FNC. They gave us reports on government expenditure and violations. If a member of the FNC does not get these reports then how will they confront the ministers?"

He also wants a new body to follow up on the council's recommendations, to see which are followed. He wants more media coverage of the FNC too. "When I leave the room here, no one will recognise me," he said. "But, for example, in Kuwait, members of parliament are all well known. With no media coverage, an idea would die quickly. An FNC member should not be afraid of media. Whatever they see is right, they need to say it."

With a long business career, and as head of the economic committee during his first term on the FNC, he has plenty of suggestions about how business should be run. He wants greater Emiratisation of both the public and private sector, as well as more help for young Emiratis who want to start a business. All laws, he says, should be scrutinised to ensure they protect Emiratis' wealth.

He also wants Emirati salaries to be under continuous review, and for widows, orphans, the elderly and the disabled to receive a monthly income.

Unlike some of his opponents, Mr Al Marar is not relying on social media to gain an audience, but is instead travelling from city to city to meet voters.

"Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube - these new mediums have helped candidates with low budgets. But I do not recommend it always. Candidates need to have contacts, they need to go to people and tell them about themselves."

He said social networks could only help candidates communicate with one sector of the community. He was also wary of spending time communicating with "fake" voters.

He estimates that in Abu Dhabi, candidates will need around 5,000 votes to secure a seat on election day, September 24.

In 2006, with just 1,741 eligible to vote in Abu Dhabi and a 60 per cent turnout, he won his seat with 194 votes. This time, with an electorate of 47,444, he will need far more.

"With social media, you would be talking to 1,000 people [but] maybe only 500 vote for you - this is not enough to secure a seat. Candidates need to move from street to street.

"Having your pictures on the streets is not enough. People need to know your personality and what you are capable of and your experience. A member of the FNC needs to be a superman."

But some people, he has found, are still unsure what the council is there for. "The FNC has had a role in everything in our lives, people just don't know it. Smoking in the car where there are children, for example - who helped to ban that? The FNC did. What about fisheries? We asked for its protection. We discussed health, education, labour law, economy. The council has an impact everywhere in our lives."