x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Umm Al Qaiwain: in a small emirate, a steady turnout

Half of the electorate in Umm Al Qaiwain had shown up at the polling station by 2pm.

A man in a wheelchair casts his vote at the Ministry of Culture, Umm Al Qaiwain.
A man in a wheelchair casts his vote at the Ministry of Culture, Umm Al Qaiwain.

UMM AL QAIWAIN // Adel Humaid gave a broad smile and held his ID against his chest after he cast his ballot. He announced enthusiastically: "I’m the first voter."

As a candidate, Mr Humaid , 45, said he was optimistic about the day and that he expected quite a few friends and family members to come and vote.

“I won’t say the number so people don’t jinx me,” the lawyer said.After candidates had cast their ballots, voters kept streaming in, which to some was promising considering the size of Umm Al Qaiwain. Of the 3,285 people chosen to vote in the emirate, about 50 per cent had voted by 2pm, said Abdullah Salem, the head of UAQ’s branch of the National Election Committee.

Between 15 and 20 per cent of those early voters were women, Mr Salem said.

People of all ages, including senior citizens with disabilities, flocked to the stations during the early hours.Jumaa Mubarak, 73, stopped every two minutes to greet people he knew.

The former diver and government employee would also pause between sentences to recite poetic verses. He was not alone; all of the voters appeared to be in the middle of a social gathering.

Despite his fragile posture and limp, Mr Mubarak showed up to vote on his own, before the rest of his family, because he considered it a national duty.His main concerns were more government support for the elderly and ensuring that no officials “detour from the right path”.

That was the attitude of most voters, including a blind man in his 70s and two others in wheelchairs who decided to make an effort and respond to the request by Sheikh Khalifa, the President, for them to vote.While many voters were there to support family and friends, Abdullah Al Shamsi, 60, a retired immigration employee, had his own problems that he hoped would be solved through the FNC.

“The cap on marriage funds should be raised. Dh15,000 is not enough,” Mr Al Shamsi said.“There should be more job opportunities for nationals and salaries should be raised.”

As a father of eight, with three of his children jobless and the males unable to afford to get married, he was speaking from his heart.

Seif Bu Osaiba, the head of his family, and his son voted for two family members who were candidates. Each voter in the emirate can vote for two candidates.

“Omar, Mohammed and Humaid will still come to vote, the rest of my sons,” he said.