x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

FNC focus turns to appointed members

Rulers of each emirate will fill 20 remaining seats.

As 20 newly elected members prepare to take their seats on the FNC, attention turned yesterday to who will fill the council's other 20 places.

The Ruler of each emirate appoints the same number of members as his emirate elects - four in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, three in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, and two each in Umm Al Qaiwain, Fujairah and Ajman.

Officials have said the Rulers may take the opportunity to compensate for imbalances in the election results when they make their decisions.

"Say in Sharjah, if no one is elected from Khor Fakkan, then maybe the leader will appoint someone from there for better representation," Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for FNC Affairs and head of the National Election Committee, said in one of his lectures explaining the election process.

Rowiyah Samiha, who was appointed to the last FNC by the Ruler of Fujairah, Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, believes her track record in volunteering and community involvement in other emirates, as well as Fujairah, played a part.

Sheikh Hamad told Ms Samiha personally of her appointment, but gave no reason.

Only one woman was elected on Saturday. When that happened in 2006 the Rulers appointed eight more and Ms Samiha believes that may happen again this year.

“We were expecting that the second time round, especially with the higher number of female voters and candidates, there would be more women elected, especially as some of the female candidates had very good credentials,” she said.

Ms Samiha said the Rulers could even appoint more women this time.

“The leaders had a big role in supporting women,” she said. “Women were professional and successful in the last FNC. Women had a big role in the FNC.”

Ms Samiha said she believed women had suffered from the combination of a low voter turnout of 28 per cent nationwide, and that the women’s vote had been split by the fact that there were 85 female candidates.

Dr Gargash said the split votes had been expected because of the large number of candidates overall – a total of 450.

The low turnout may also have contributed to some tribes – Al Amiri in Abu Dhabi and Al Shamsi in Ajman – dominating the winners’ list, said Ms Samiha.

“The elections were very transparent so I say the problem is in people participating,” she said. “I do not blame the families at all; on the contrary, these are the ones who cared about the country’s call to participate.”

Before the election, Dr Gargash repeatedly stated his hope that people would not vote on the basis of tribalism.

“For us, what is important in the UAE is to develop a process of representation that will assist us, that will not break down along regional and tribal and factional lines that we see in many countries surrounding us,” he said. “This would be tragic for us.”

Dr Gargash said the UAE needed to be careful not to “break up society into little bits and pieces”.

Although Ms Samiha believed leaders might choose to appoint people from other tribes for a more diverse group of members, Dr Ibtisam Al Kitbi, an Emirati professor in political science at UAE University, disagrees.

“It is not tribalism,” Dr Al Kitbi said. “It is still a new experience in the UAE. This is what I believe.”

She said the appointment of the other 20 FNC members should not be based on families, but experience.

“I hope that people’s credentials and areas of expertise needed for FNC are used as a measurement to appoint people,” Dr Al Kitbi said. “It doesn’t matter what family they belong to.”

She said she hoped members with a legal background would be appointed.

“To have a lawyer in the FNC is very important.”

osalem@thenational.ae