x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Four candidates file FNC poll complaints

Losing FNC candidates in RAK are asking for an investigation to determine why they did not receive more votes.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Some candidates who failed to win seats in Saturday's FNC election have asked for ballots to be re-examined amid concerns over possibly faulty voting machines.

Election officials have received three formal complaints in Ras Al Khaimah and one in Sharjah. There were also reports of four more objections in RAK and another four in Abu Dhabi, but they have not been officially registered. The deadline for doing so passed yesterday afternoon.

"We will go through the complaints and see how serious they are," Sheikh Abdulla bin Humaid Al Qassimi, the head of the RAK election committee, said yesterday. "We'll filter through the complaints and then I will send them to Abu Dhabi."

Muna Mohammed, an unsuccessful candidate in RAK, said she was embarrassed by the 49 votes she received. "It can't be," she said. "My own family is bigger than that, and they all voted for me. I won't accept this number of votes. It needs to be investigated."

Yousif Al Ghalili, another unsuccessful RAK candidate, received only 414 votes, far below what he had expected. "It should be at least double that," said Mr Al Ghalili, a member of Al Shehhi tribe, one of the largest mountain tribes in RAK.

But Sheikh Abdulla said: “How did he know? You cannot just ask people, ‘Did you vote for me or not?’ A vote is personal.”

Both voters and candidates complained that some voting machines registered different names from the ones they had chosen, or printed a vote receipt after only one choice had been made. Some voters chose to write their choices on the voting receipt instead.

Abu Mohammed, 35, from RAK, said the machine on which he voted registered a different name from the one he had selected.

“I managed to change it but many people could not,” he said. “A lot of people told me this was a problem they faced. We want a manual recount and to be sure that such mistakes do not happen again in the future.”

Some people left the RAK polling places without voting, frustrated either by the machines or by the long wait.

Those who have spoken out about the voting problems said they felt it was their national duty to do so, but many are reluctant to complain publicly because of local traditions. Hundreds of tribesmen have gathered each night at the winners’ homes to show support, and objections may be viewed as insulting both to one’s own family and to the family of the successful candidates.

“We want it to be an official and legitimate case so that we avoid any problems and backlash from our community,” Mr Al Ghalili said.

Another voter in RAK said: “It is our tradition to go and say ‘salam alaykum’, and if you do not go it’s very rude.

“All the UAE community are very close to each other so they don’t want to say, ‘I faced this problem’.

“They all had the same complaints and the same programme. The main reason those three people made the complaint is because they are very sure that a lot of people voted for them.

“We want to make it clear now so this does not happen in the future. There is no limit to the loyalty we have for our Government. We need to thank the Government of the UAE, and Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Zayed that they have this idea for people to vote.”

Anyone who files a formal election complaint must state the reasons for the complaint and pay a Dh3,000 deposit, which is refunded if the committee finds in their favour.

Other than in RAK and Sharjah, election committees said there had been no official complaints filed at their offices.

“There have been some candidates who came in and made some verbal complaints, but didn’t come back and officially file a complaint,” said an official at one of the election committees.

The NEC will release an official statement including all appeals and how they will be addressed. Until then, it will make no announcements.

azacharias@thenational.ae

rghazal@thenational.ae