x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

More Emiratis to vote in FNC elections

The number of Emiratis who participate in FNC elections this year is to increase, with the minimum size of the electoral college tripled.

ABU DHABI // The number of Emiratis who participate in FNC elections this year is to increase, with the minimum size of the electoral college tripled.

The announcement yesterday is the first official confirmation by the Government that it will hold a second round of elections for half the members of the council.

"It is a well-placed decision and an excellent step that will enrich the election experience," said Sultan al Muazzin, the former chairman of the FNC's health, labour and social affairs committee.

The resolution, published on the state news agency WAM, amends a decree in 2006 by the Federal Supreme Council, the highest federal authority, and triples the minimum size of the electoral college in each emirate.

A separate presidential decree has outlined the creation of a National Election Committee, which will be chaired by Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for FNC Affairs.

The committee includes the ministers of justice, education, culture, youth and community development, the Secretary General of Presidential Affairs, and representatives from the ministries of interior, cabinet affairs and FNC affairs.

The committee will be in charge of drawing up a framework for the elections, in addition to supervising them and promoting public awareness of the elections process.

The developments are part of an effort to "strengthen political participation through a gradual and orderly path", said Dr Gargash.

Under the 2006 Supreme Council decree, each emirate was required to have an electoral college at least 100 times the number of its representatives at the FNC. Each emirate can now appoint a minimum of 300 times that number to the electoral college.

In the 2006 elections, for instance, Fujairah, which has four FNC representatives, could grant the right to vote to at least 400 of its citizens. It appointed 418. Fujairah can now grant voting rights to at least 1,200 constituents.

Abu Dhabi, which was allowed an electoral college of at least 800 to its eight members, appointed nearly 1,800 members to the electoral college. It can now appoint a minimum of 2,400. The electoral college members are chosen by the rulers.

No date for the elections themselves was announced.

In the first FNC elections in 2006, half of the council's 40 members were appointed, and the other half were elected by a caucus of 6,689 Emiratis.

The term of the first half-elected council ended formally on Saturday, after its last session on Tuesday of last week.

The FNC, which remains an advisory branch of the government rather than a legislative one, has the power to question government ministers, discuss general topics such as food security, the policies of different ministries and the federal budget, and amend, but not draft, legislation.

Dr al Muazzin said more citizens were becoming aware of the role of the FNC, which is to "carry the voice and needs of citizens to decision-makers".

He said the news represented an "empowerment of the democratic process".

Sultan al Suwaidi, former chairman of the FNC's youth, media and culture committee, said he supported the decision, but would have preferred it to have come earlier. "This decision widens the circle and is inclusive of a larger segment of society," he said. "But I don't think the delay was in the interests of the nation."

Mr al Suwaidi said he would like to see an election law that would enshrine the election process in legislation, instead of through decrees and the framework of the National Election Committee.

"I hope the members of the electoral college committees are qualified and responsible and that the elections occur as soon as possible," he said.