x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Al Ain: voting machines shut down for two hours

Citizens disgruntled after breakdown of machines delays voting and ballot receipts are not printed.

Emiratis gather at the Al Ain Exhibition Centre to cast their votes for the FNC elections.
Emiratis gather at the Al Ain Exhibition Centre to cast their votes for the FNC elections.

AL AIN // Emirati citizens arrived by the hundreds at the Al Ain Convention Centre this morning ready to cast their votes but found that the electronic voting machines were not working. As IT engineers scrambled to resolve the problem voters grew impatient.

Mohammed Youssef, 41, a government employee, arrived with his brother at 8am hoping to cast his vote and then go on with his day. After a wait of two hours and 20 minutes, he was finally able to do so.

“This was very disorganised,” he said. “I had to wait for two hours to vote. My legs grew tired from standing around. There were no chairs for us to sit on and no one was giving us anything to drink. I’m also unhappy that the men and women were not kept separated.”

An elderly woman who declined to give her name left in frustration, shouting at election officials that she grew tired of waiting and decided to go home without voting.

“This is all very disorganised,” she said. “I waited and waited and got tired. I’m an old woman. I can’t just stand around all day. I’m going home.”

A little after 10am the computers had been repaired and those who had been waiting began trickling out of the convention centre having cast their vote.

“It was a good experience to take part in this election,” said Homood Salem Al Qutbi, 40, a retired police officer. “Yes the system was down but I saw friends and family here and chatted with them for a while so the 90 minutes I had to wait passed quickly. I only wish that men and women were kept separate.”

Two hours after the computers went back online, there was another glitch: the computers stopped printing ballot receipts. This left doubt in the minds of some, further exacerbating a general atmosphere of displeasure.

“The computer didn’t give me my receipt which leaves me in doubt that my vote was actually registered,” said Huda Al Shamsi, a housewife. “Apart from the computer problems, the place was crowded and the whole thing was disorganised. This is not a day for our country to be proud at all. I am sure this is not what Sheikh Khalifa had envisioned for this day to become. This was a complete failure.”

Sultan Salem Al Balooshi, 28, an Emiratisation executive with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority whose sister Shamsa is a candidate, said that there should have been more privacy afforded voters as they punched their votes into the computer.

“There were people standing over my shoulder pressuring me to vote for the candidates they voted for. They were questioning why I was voting for one person instead of another and trying to get me to vote for who they wanted.”

Despite the inconvenience of waiting two hours to vote, Mr Al Balooshi said he was proud to have taken part in the election.

“When I received an SMS from the election council saying that I was chosen to be one of the 46,000 people who could vote in the Abu Dhabi emirate I was happy and felt proud,” he said. “I felt proud for myself and I felt pride for my country to be able to be involved.

“I am thankful that our leadership has given us this opportunity. The turnout of voters has been good. I didn’t expect so many to show up.”

ealghalib@thenational.ae