x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

FNC election an important step: Gargash

Dr Anwar Gargash believes unrest across the Middle East and North African in recent months proves the UAE's steady political development since 2005 was the right path to follow.

Events across the Arab World are testament that the steps taken by the UAE five years ago to enhance political participation were correct, said Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for FNC Affairs.

Speaking to The National, Dr Gargash outlined plans for the future development of the advisory council, but stressed that political development should not be hasty to avoid making mistakes.

"I do not think the message of events surrounding us in the Arab world should be a message of haste," Dr Gargash said. "I don't think it should be a message of abandoning plans for what we think might be quick fixes.

"It should be a message that we are on the right track and we should keep continuing this dynamic process and developing it."

Dr Gargash said political development should be "deliberate, incremental and gradual" as the "hardest thing" is to reverse a bad decision.

Dr Gargash heads the committee overseeing the FNC elections scheduled for September 24. About 80,000 Emiratis will be selected to vote, in a major expansion of the electoral college.

"This year - on September 24 - the political programme will undergo an important development which is basically another incremental move on what we have been doing since 2005," he said. "As soon as we end with elections, we will continue in the next steps."

In a landmark speech in 2005, Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, stressed the need for modernisation and "institutionalising" political participation, which should keep up with development in other areas, such as the economy.

He announced plans to develop an effective role for the FNC, first by introducing elections and ultimately by granting it greater powers.

The programme, Dr Gargash said, should be with no end "but one that can evolve".

He said this should all be done with "a reading of what the UAE can absorb".

"In 2005, this looked like the right vision and today, in view of what is happening in the Arab world, it looks even more important, and more important in fortifying UAE's position." He added that the development should be to follow a "path that marries very well between stability and modernisation".

"Like any political programme, the hardest part is to not make the wrong move because in issues of political development it is very difficult to retract," Dr Gargash said.

He said the process of representation had been consistent and should not be judged by the first steps but "on the whole programme".

"We have [also] been consistent on delivery," he said. "We have actually delivered steps in given times and introduced a new culture of elections.

"This will develop further and further as we go ahead. This is a dynamic process that will be used to increase the legitimacy of the political system and to increase the efficacy of the political system.

"It is extremely important that, as we move, we should be more deliberate rather than hasty and I would rather be slower than faster, but right,"  he said.

"What is important in the UAE is to develop a process of representation which will assist us, that will not break down along regional and tribal and factional allies that we see in many countries surrounding us. This will be tragic for us.

"Time will tell if we are successful in our gradual approach. Turnout is an indicator of how important the process is to the population. We will be watching it as an important indicator, especially with the enlargement of the electorate."