x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

FNC electoral rolls increase to almost 130,000

Pool is 50,000 greater than previously expected and almost 20 times as large as during the council's inaugural election in 2006.

ABU DHABI // The pool of voters for this year's FNC election will be 50,000 greater than previously expected and almost 20 times as great as during the council's inaugural election in 2006.

A total of 129,274 Emiratis will be eligible to vote, the National Election Committee announced yesterday.

That dwarfs the 6,595 who qualified five years ago.

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for FNC Affairs and chairman of the electoral committee, had previously estimated the voter pool at 80,000 people.

The increase, he said, underlines "the commitment of the UAE and its leadership to further promoting political participation."

The names of all members of the electoral college will be published today on the committee's website, www.uaenec.ae (site in Arabic).

The committee said the voter rolls would comprise 47,444 members from Abu Dhabi, 37,514 from Dubai, 16,850 from Ras al Khaimah, 13,937 from Sharjah, 6,324 from Fujairah, 3,920 from Ajman and 3,285 from Umm al Qaiwain.

The campaign will run between September 4 and 21, concluding with election day, scheduled for September 24. Results are expected the same day.

Fatima Kirbi, an assistant professor in political science at UAE University in Al Ain, said the leap in the number of voters was in line with plans laid out by Sheikh Khalifa, the President.

"Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed said in his speech in 2005 that the UAE is devoted to democracy, and that we want to reach it gradually to have time to increase political awareness among Emiratis because they are not used to it," she said. "The increase shows that the UAE is keeping its promise. I am optimistic, it shows that the UAE is serious."

The announcement of the expanded voter rolls "is a vital step in the preparations for the FNC elections in 2011," Dr Gargash said. "This demonstrates that the programme to promote political participation in the UAE and empower the FNC is proceeding in the right direction. It also shows that the UAE leadership is committed to strengthening political participation and developing it in tune with the local culture."

Each member of the electoral college aged 25 or older can register as a candidate for one of the 20 available seats on the 40-strong FNC. Of the 40 members, eight each are from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, six each from Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah, and four each from Ajman, Umm al Qaiwain and Fujairah.

Candidates must provide a certificate of good conduct and be literate and physically fit. They can register between August 14 and 17.

The electoral committee will release a preliminary list of nominees on August 20.

Candidates are required to pay a non-refundable amount of Dh1,000 in cash or cheque to the Ministry of Finance and to have a letter from their employer stating that they will be given time off between August 14 and September 29. Employees from the police, army, or security forces must have a certificate of approval to run.

If an election results in a draw, by-elections will be held on October 1, with the electoral commission announcing the results on October 6.

Mohamed Al Mahmoud, a 24-year-old from Abu Dhabi, said the expanded voter list would provide a better representation of public opinion. “The best thing is the higher representation of people,” he said.

Najla Al Awadhi, formerly an appointed FNC member from Dubai, did not find the almost 20-fold increase in voters surprising.

“We knew there would be an expansion, it is something that was expected, part of the plans the government spoke about several times,” she said. “This expansion is definitely one step towards that direction, it is definitely a positive thing.”

She said the larger electorate would lead to greater diversity at the FNC.

“The bigger the poll, probably the bigger the diversity in terms of expertise,” she said. “It could include people from the government and private sector.”

Besides checking the electoral commission’s website, Emiratis can call 600 566661 to find out if their names are listed, or visit the commission’s offices across the country, including at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai World Trade Centre, Sharjah Cultural Palace, Fujairah Trade Centre and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development in Umm al Qaiwain.

osalem@thenational.ae