Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Hundreds of Emiratis begin casting votes in FNC election

More than 100 polling stations had been organised internationally to allow those working overseas to take part

The FNC in session. Pawan Singh / The National
The FNC in session. Pawan Singh / The National

Hundreds of Emiratis living and working outside of the UAE began casting their votes for the Federal National Council election on Sunday.

Thousands of expatriates around the world are expected to take part in the ballot, the fourth such vote in the nation’s history.

Officials said a total of 118 polling stations had been organised internationally to allow all eligible voters a say in the process.

This year, UAE leaders have also placed a major focus on encouraging younger residents, as well as women, to take part.

“The FNC elections mark another landmark in the evolution of the political system,” said Mansoor Abulhoul, the UAE’s ambassador to the UK.

“Even if Emiratis are living in the UK, it’s a very close-knit society in the UAE and we’re all interconnected.

“Through speaking with family back home, they will be aware of the key issues. It’s really important that they are part of the modernisation and progressiveness of the UAE.”

The FNC is one of five federal authorities established by the UAE constitution and it held its first session on December 2, 1972.

Its members represent each of the seven emirates and their role includes passing, amending or rejecting draft federal law, as well as discussing international treaties and agreements.

Half of its 40 members are currently elected via the public vote and the remainder are appointed.

A recent government decree also announced that of the 20 elected members who win seats in the coming election on October 5, half should be women.

Speaking from London on Sunday, UAE officials said there were now more than 1,600 Emirati students studying in the UK who were eligible to vote.

Mr Abulhoul argued it was crucial everyone played their part in the process, and said the drive to include more women members sent out a “positive message” to the world.

“Women are the unsung success story of the UAE,” he said. “I think it was a sensible decision by the leadership to have that representation in the FNC.”

Rawdha Al Otaiba, deputy head of mission at the London embassy, also welcomed the move to boost female participation in politics, saying the change to FNC rules reflected a broader development across the country.

“You can see more representation of women in education,” she said. “In universities, female participation is higher than men.

“This has a great impact and so it is important to have women in important sectors within the parliamentary body of the UAE.”

Maryam Al Maidoor, 24, who is studying for a master’s degree at Kings College London, said she was excited to be casting her ballot.

“It’s my first-time voting,” she said. “And to do it here [at the consulate] outside of the UAE is really special.

“It’s nice to come here and meet people from my country and feel like you are at home just for one day.”

Ms Al Maidoor revealed she was looking for a candidate who would prioritise health and education, as well as be a strong advocate for younger people.

“As a young person, we need someone who listens to our needs and tries their best to help us,” she said.

Cultural attaché Abdulla Al Kaabi said the UAE consulate in London was the only place in the UK where Emiratis could vote. Polling is due to close on Monday, September 23 at 6pm local time.

Updated: September 22, 2019 09:27 PM

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