x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Foreign donations ruled out for FNC elections

The Government will not provide campaign funds and candidates can not accept donations from foreigners, official says.

Musabeh Saeed Al Kilbi asks a question of Dr Saeed Al Ghafli, the assistant undersecretary of the Ministry of State for FNC Affairs, in Sharjah last night. Pawan Singh / The National
Musabeh Saeed Al Kilbi asks a question of Dr Saeed Al Ghafli, the assistant undersecretary of the Ministry of State for FNC Affairs, in Sharjah last night. Pawan Singh / The National

SHARJAH // Candidates in the FNC elections cannot accept donations from foreigners and may be asked to account for all funds, the head of FNC Affairs said last night.

The Government would not provide election campaign expenses, although candidates could raise funds from members of the local community, Dr Saeed Al Ghafli, the assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of State for FNC affairs, told 200 voters at the Sharjah Cultural Centre.

"Like any government in the world, the UAE cannot extend financial help to each and every candidate. Candidates can mobilise money from with in the UAE community," Dr Al Ghafli said.

He said candidates were forbidden from sourcing funds from outside the country or from expatriates.

The meeting was the latest in a national tour by representatives from the National Election Committee (NEC) to educate voters and candidates before the September 24 poll.

Financing has remained a key issue for candidates, with a Dh2 million cap on campaign funding.

NEC representatives have already conducted similar meetings in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Fujairah, with sessions planned for Ras al Khaimah, Umm al Qaiwain and Ajman.

Visitors at previous meetings have raised questions on a range of issues, including the use of social media in campaigning and the boosting of female representation in the 40-member strong chamber, the elected members of which offer guidance to the Government.

"The Government is always committed to implement the recommendations of this council as this is the voice of the people," said Dr Al Ghafli.

He also discussed the increase in the number of people eligible to vote, which grew by 20 times from just more than 6,000 in the last election to more than 129,000 this year.

Dr Al Ghafli said this year's elections would be electronic - the first in the Arab world.

Twenty candidates will win seats in the FNC, with the other members appointed by the rulers of each emirate.

Other issues raised included how the election would be conducted.

"How is the government going to ensure that many people turn up for the elections?" asked voter Mohammed Al Hajj.

"Is there a strong media campaign to entice people, even those who don't care about politics to come for elections?"

Dr Al Ghafli responded: "Voting participation here is good from the first elections we had. We have also used all media and hope all eligible voters will turn up to take part."

Another issue was Sharjah's three polling stations, and where voters should cast their ballots. Dr Al Ghafli said a voter could vote from anywhere within his registered emirate.

Aisha Al Khajja, another member of the electorate, said there had been problems in accessing the website to check their names. Dr Al Ghafli said the technical team was working to rectify IT problems.

He said the NEC would strictly monitor all campaigns and would take necessary legal procedures should any candidates be found to have breached election rules.

ykakande@thenational.ae