x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

FNC candidates keep close eye on their rivals

Competitors take to social media to woo votes and check on what their opponents are up to.

Campaign well on the road: a lone election ad campaign along Al Wasl Road in Dubai.
Campaign well on the road: a lone election ad campaign along Al Wasl Road in Dubai.

As the battle for a place on the FNC hots up the campaigns appear to be evolving rapidly, with candidates eager not to be outdone in promises or campaigning muscle.

Maryam Al Falasi, a Dubai candidate in this month's FNC elections, has been following other candidates on Twitter since campaigning began on Sunday.

She has already noticed the changes, she said.

"Some people have changed their campaigns, changed the colours, changed ways of communication," Ms Al Falasi said.

"At the end it's not about the colour or style, but about who you are, what your achievements are."

She is not alone. Many candidates appear to be watching each other intently.

Ranya Abdullah, an Abu Dhabi candidate, has found many repeated promises and ideas.

"Promises are becoming all the same," Ms Abdullah said. "Each person should have their own personality."

Common themes included Emiratisation, employment and empowering women, she said.

To prevent their ideas or presentation being copied, some candidates are holding back on publishing their campaign programmes until they have seen their rivals' offerings.

Rashad Al Bukhash, a Dubai candidate, said the 20-fold increase in the electoral roll this year, compared with 2006, meant many candidates felt they had to advertise and campaign on a much larger scale.

But Mr Al Bukhash said candidates should not get carried away with pledges they could not deliver.

"The promises should be doable," he said. "Candidates need to understand their role would not be legislative on the council."

Mansour Al Faheem, an Abu Dhabi candidate, said voters needed to rely on their judgement and maturity when casting their ballots.

Mr Al Faheem echoed comments made this week by Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for FNC Affairs and the chairman of the National Election Committee.

"Competition is always fierce - 116 candidates are fighting for four seats," he said. "But I think it is up to the public now.

"I think the mass advertising that has been happening recently does not portray the individual. But also voters need to understand who the candidates are."

Mr Al Faheem said while most candidates' tweets on what their role will be have been met with scepticism and criticism from the public, more dialogue was needed for a better understanding.

"They need to question us, come and see who we are," he said.

Four days into campaigning, candidates have also felt the need to introduce more advertising and better ways to communicate with voters and the public.

Ms Al Falasi added a BlackBerry Pin to her Twitter page yesterday, to give more people the opportunity to communicate with her.

"It is very important in any campaign to know who is your target audience and how to reach out to them," she said. "Every single person is walking with a BlackBerry, if not an iPhone. And yes, I introduced BlackBerry interaction."

Ms Al Falasi uses e-mail, Twitter and Facebook to keep in close contact with people, but she said candidates needed to be careful not to stretch themselves too thinly across the various social media.

"You have to be really smart not to overload yourself with the technology," she said. "Yes, I accept everybody to add me, but set a duration to respond to people from 10am to 1pm [on BlackBerry]."

osalem@thenational.ae