x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

FNC elections in September, Government says

Campaigning will run from September 4 to 21, with an election on September 24.

ABU DHABI // Elections for the FNC will take place on September 24, the National Election Committee (NEC) announced yesterday.

Campaigning will run from September 4 to 21. Candidate registration will take place over four days from August 14, with the final list announced on August 28.

Yesterday’s statement follows a decision to triple the minimum number of Emiratis allowed to vote and the release of updated election guidelines by the NEC. A minimum of 12,000 Emiratis will vote as members of electoral colleges in each of the seven emirates.

Half of the FNC’s 40 members are elected. The other 20 are appointed by the rulers of each emirate.

Dr Sultan al Muazzin, former chairman of the FNC’s health, labour and social affairs committee, said citizens had a role to play in ensuring the process was successful to “show the world that we are an advanced and democratic people”.

Dr al Muazzin, who is in favour of a gradual approach to giving all Emiratis the right to vote, said: “Democracy is on its way to being applied in UAE society, and we must not be hasty.”

Former FNC members said the date would allow campaigning to begin after the holy month of Ramadan and Eid celebrations. Ramadan is expected to begin at the start of August.

Among other dates set out in the election timetable, the last day for election candidates to withdraw is September 21.

The initial election results will be announced on polling day itself. Candidates can appeal against the outcome on September 25, and the NEC has to respond within three days.

The final list of elected FNC members will be announced on September 28, but if a second elections has to be held in any emirate the announcement will be delayed until October 6.

In 2006, the first elections to the FNC took place over three days.

Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of FNC Affairs and chairman of the NEC, said yesterday that the committee set the dates to allow enough time to spread awareness of the election.

“The NEC ensured the announcement of the timeline of the elections in this early period with all the details of the election process in order to spread awareness around the elections that the country will witness in 2011,” he said.

The FNC held its last session in February. The federal Government announced new elections after that, but new members will not be seated until October at the earliest.

Despite the eight-month gap, FNC members were upbeat about the timetable yesterday. “I don’t think there’s an issue with it; on the contrary, the timing is good,” said Abdul Raheem al Shaheen, a former elected member from Ras al Khaimah.

Dr al Shaheen said the procedures for the elections did not require any changes, and it was easy to hold meetings with constituents, campaign and vote at the electronic booths.

But he said the voting pool should be expanded to include all Emiratis, and the powers of the FNC should be augmented.

Dr al Muazzin, who has called for oversight committees to ensure that all families are represented as voters, said: “Our only concern is that there must be transparency in choosing the names for the electoral colleges.”

A decree last month tripled the minimum size of the electoral colleges in each emirate, which elect members to the FNC. Now at least 12,000 Emiratis will take part in the elections. There is no maximum number of electoral college members.

Nevertheless, several former FNC members have called for all Emiratis to be allowed to vote, and a petition posted online last week and signed by 133 Emiratis called for direct and universal elections for the FNC and full legislative powers to the council. Currently the FNC cannot initiate legislation.

kshaheen@thenational.ae