Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Federal National Council candidates hit the campaign trail ahead of elections

Common themes among electoral programmes include more job opportunities for Emiratis, regulating school fees and protecting the environment

Ameena al Mazrouei, is a candidate running for the Federal National Council in elections this year. She hopes to represent her emirate, Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National 
Ameena al Mazrouei, is a candidate running for the Federal National Council in elections this year. She hopes to represent her emirate, Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National 

Hundreds of candidates running in the UAE's Federal National Council elections are out in force as campaigning gets under way this week.

Posters and billboards bearing the faces and candidate numbers of close to 500 Emiratis have begun going up across the country.

Job opportunities for UAE citizens are common themes among candidates’ electoral programmes, as are regulating school fees and protecting the environment.

In total, 495 Emiratis are running for just 20 elected seats in the FNC, an advisory body that debates pressing issues.

As candidates make themselves more accessible to the public, to hear their concerns ahead of elections day, one man has introduced a toll free number to receive suggestions.

Mohammed Al Ketbi, 40, received 30 calls from potential voters since activating his toll-free number on Sunday.

“I even received an international call today at 3am,” said Mr Al Ketbi, a mechanical engineer and career development coach in Abu Dhabi.

He is running for the second time but has updated the topics on his electoral programme this year.

Among his top issues is to push for legislation to stop academic certificate fraud, an issue he described as common but seldom reported, “because people don’t like to admit that they have been fooled”.

He said he had heard cases where bogus institutes have issued master’s degrees to students after a two-month “course”, or foreign employees were hired after presenting forged certificates to their company — only to be discovered years later.

Mr Al Ketbi said that, if elected, he would push for mandatory accreditation for foreign certificates.

“Right now there is an attestation requirement, but with accreditation you can find out what the qualifications of a certain certificate is equivalent to in UAE terms,” he said.

Ameena Al Mazrouei, 36, is running in Abu Dhabi for the first time. She wants to bring in a system that monitors and regulates private school fees.

“There should be an assessment for what each school is providing and how reasonable their fees are; and if their fees are considered overpriced they should be forced to cut them down,” said the former TV reporter.

Shurooq Al Sharhan, one of the youngest candidates from Ras Al Khaimah, plans to push for more support for working mothers and young Emiratis as well as stronger legislation to protect the environment.

The candidate, 27, was encouraged to run by her family after she showed interest in solving community issues.

“I work at RAK ruler’s court as the head of the financial assistance section and that allowed me to obtain good knowledge about people’s financial issues and how to find permanent solutions to them,” said Ms Al Sharhan.

She studied sociology and social work at university, which she said, has helped her develop good interpersonal and social problem solving skills.

In June, Ms Al Sharhan travelled to the North Pole with Robert Swan to witness the effect of climate change on glaciers first hand. She was shocked by what she saw.

“Everyone should be aware of the important role of the environment and how we should protect it,” she said.

“I will also focus on the youth issues such as unemployment and supporting young entrepreneurs and their start-ups.”

Sixty-one candidates are in the running for RAK’s six seats on the council. Three will be elected while the emirate’s Ruler will appoint the other half.

On Monday, women came from across the emirate to a majlis held by Naama Al Sharhan to hear her agenda for this year’s election.

The former member is running for the second time after becoming the only woman to be elected to the council in the 2015 elections.

Her focus this year include bolstering health insurance, supporting women, people with disabilities and the elderly, and cracking down on cyber bullying.

“[There are] many issues related to education, health, retirement, childhood obesity that we need to tackle and find solutions for,” said Ms Al Sharhan.

Rayhana Al Shahi, from Shaam, attended Ms Al Sharhan’s majlis on Monday.

She said she planned to vote for candidates who championed women empowerment and mixed gender classrooms.

“A campaign is needed to spread awareness about the importance of mixed gender classrooms at schools to help them accept it,” she said.

Another woman said candidates should focus on teachers’ benefits and health insurance.

“Teachers play an important role and we should always appreciate them and provide them with the best benefits, promotions and health insurance,” said Najeba Al Shamsi, 52.

“We also need a children's specialized hospital in Ras Al Khaimah,” Ms Al Shamsi said.

A poster belonging to Khawlah Al Ali, who is running in this year's FNC elections to represent Sharjah. Ms Al Ali is championing polygamy as an answer to 'spinsterhood'. Reem Mohammed / The National
A poster belonging to Khawlah Al Ali, who is running in this year's FNC elections to represent Sharjah. Ms Al Ali is championing polygamy as an answer to 'spinsterhood'. Reem Mohammed / The National

In Sharjah, one candidate is calling for Emirati men to be encouraged to marry more than one wife as a solution to "spinsterhood" among UAE women.

Khawlah Al Ali’s banners featuring the slogan “for a spinsterhood-free society, yes to polygamy” went up across the emirate this week.

Ms Al Ali, who is not married and who works for Sharjah Public Library, said she believed she was a voice for men and women, including widows looking for a father figure for their children, divorcees and unmarried women. If she was married and her husband showed interest in a second wife, she would help him to find one.

“I may satisfy his heart but not his mind, or the other way around, but he wanted another woman to fulfil his satisfaction, so why should I prevent that from happening?" she said.

“My slogan is not empty promises. It’s a belief and I will work hard for it.”

Updated: September 11, 2019 01:25 PM

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