x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

FNC election will be 'more mature'

Minister of State says officials hope for a better showing of female candidates and a higher number of voters.

AL AIN // The campaign for election to the Federal National Council (FNC) in September will involve many more voters and will be "more mature" than in 2006, says the government minister responsible for the body.

Many successful 2006 candidates later broke their election promises and some were "extremely far from reality", Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for FNC Affairs, told an audience of political science and law students at United Arab Emirates University.

"Some said 'I will do this, and this, and this'," he said, adding that was to be expected, as the 2006 elections for 20 of the FNC's 40 seats were the country's first.

"I think this is normal. But political campaigns are expected to be more mature this year."

He had no control, though, over what candidates said. "No one would listen to me," he said. "Part of politics is for the candidates to promise more than what they can give anyway."

An official from a women's group said many of the candidates in 2006 had been unclear about what their role in the FNC would entail.

"When we had campaigns, we didn't know what our role would be," she said. "We didn't even know what an FNC is - we went in with our eyes closed. A lot who went in didn't know what elections were like."

She also criticised the fact only one woman was elected - Abu Dhabi's Dr Amal al Qubaisi. The balance was redressed somewhat by the appointed half of the council. Eight of the 20 appointed seats were given to women.

Dr Gargash believes that will not be necessary this time. Last time, he said, women spread their votes too thinly between the 63 female candidates, meaning only Dr al Qubaisi gained enough to win a seat. "Many were close to winning, if it weren't for the splitting of the nominations," he said.

He said the records of the nine female FNC members had been mixed. "Some were good and some bad," he said. "I cannot generalise."

However, they had taken a greater part in debates about issues related to society, education, and health. "Women cared less for economic issues," he said. "It could be because most were from academic backgrounds."

On issues such as the taking of second wives, female members had tended to take a more personal perspective, he said.

Many at the lecture asked how the voters had been selected in 2006. "Why did they have a priority?" asked Ahood al Khade, a political science student at UAEU. "No one is better than anyone else."

They were chosen at random, said Dr Gargash. "From the beginning we said that it was the first step," he said. "The country had no experience of elections.

"A lot more wanted to participate. We said then, your turn will come, and now it has."

Although the legal minimum number of voters has been increased this time, from 4,000 to 12,000, Dr Gargash expects many more to be included. In 2006, 6,595 Emiratis - 5,433 men and 1,162 women - voted. He estimated that up to 80,000 would do so this time.

He did not specify how the electors would be chosen, but said there would be close co-ordination with the Emirates Identity Authority to make sure those selected were not deceased, a problem in 2006.

He added that there would be more polling stations this time, including in Al Ain and Khor Fakkan.

But even the political science students at the lecture admitted they were still unsure of the FNC's role. "We don't know what an FNC does, we never heard of it before," said Asma Salim.

osalem@thenational.ae