x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

FNC candidates take to the telephone to win votes

Voters say they have been getting campaign calls from candidates - and wondering how their numbers became public knowledge.

SHARJAH AND AJMAN // Candidates in this month's FNC elections have taken to cold-calling the electorate.

Many voters have already received calls, and some are baffled as to how the campaigners have access to their numbers.

Mohammed Al Najjar, a Sharjah resident, said he saw no pattern as to who was contacted.

"Some of my friends have had calls from some candidates, while others have not had any calls," he said. "Wherever they get our numbers, someone has shown some creativity."

Mohammed Al Mansouri, a voter and employee with Sharjah Police, said he had not known any of the candidates who had called him, but listened to them as this was "part of our national responsibility".

"I have replied to every one after listening that my vote was a trust. It is better you mean what you say and remain committed to it after the elections."

Telephone campaigning had also reached Ali Turaym, another employee with Sharjah Police, who said he was still undecided to whom he would give his vote.

"It's not enough to just call me and introduce yourself and programme, not enough to just see you on television, posters or listen to your voice on radio and then give you my vote," he said. "I need to have known you for some time as a hardworking national with good ideas and the UAE at your heart."

According to the National Election Committee, no list of voters' telephone numbers has been distributed.

"From us there are no contacts being given out," said Saeed Al Ghafli, a member of the NEC. "It was a superior decision from the NEC not to disclose [voters contacts] to anyone. They are all treated with confidentiality."

He suggested that because the electoral college list is online, candidates may have used their own networking skills and contacts to reach voters.

In Ajman, several candidates found a different way of soliciting votes - by turning up during working hours at government buildings to address Emirati voters.

"We received about four candidates yesterday, and today only one has so far been here this morning," said Noora Ahmed, an employee with Ajman Municipality and Planning Directorate. "They come and talk to employees one by one. Not many disruptions are made."

No rule violations by candidates had been reported so far, said Saeed Saif Al Matroushi, the director of FNC Ajman.

"We have also not yet had any complaints from candidates," he added.

Khawla Norman, an engineer and one of the more vocal members of the Sharjah Consultative Council, is running for an FNC post this year. Public housing, comprehensive health insurance, Emiratisation of the health sector and family rights are key parts of her programme.

"There are several legislations, especially when it comes to family affairs, that require the participation of women," she said. "But women's focus now is broader than gender issues. We are looking at the society and all its affairs from housing to welfare and health insurance."

Sharjah has 16 women candidates out of the 93 running in the emirate.