x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

NEC steps up preparations for poll

FNC candidate registration starts Sunday

Emirati men check a ballot box for the Federal National Council elections.
Emirati men check a ballot box for the Federal National Council elections.

DUBAI // The National Election Commission will move into high gear on Sunday, opening registration for candidates to the Federal National Council and launching preparations for 13 voting centres throughout the country.

Hundreds of Emiratis are expected to register to contest the poll, vying for 20 seats in the 40-member body.

"We have been moving in stages through this process. Now this is the candidates stage," said Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs.

"In 2006, we saw about 500 candidates stand in the election. Now the question is how many candidates we will get."

Candidates must be above 25 years of age and of "good public standing" to contest the poll. They may not accept any money from any entity or foreign government for their campaigns and may not engage in sectarian or divisive campaigning. They also may not make promises they would not have the authority to deliver.

Meanwhile, the NEC is moving rapidly to prepare polling stations across the country.

The voting centres to be established in the coming weeks include four in Abu Dhabi, two in Dubai, three in Sharjah and one each in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Umm Al Qaiwain and Ajman.

The locations were chosen for their proximity to areas where Emiratis reside, availability of parking, electricity supply, and for accessibility into and out of the stations.

Seven hundred electronic voting machines will be delivered to voting centres across the country in coming weeks.

The machines are regarded as tamper-proof and more reliable than manual voting systems.

To vote, a member of the electoral college has to insert his national identity card and select a candidate by their image or picture.

The votes are registered electronically and a paper ticket is printed off that should be placed in the secure box provided.

Ihab Maayah, the project manager for Logica, one of the developers of the system, said the paper votes would be counted if there was a doubt about the result.

Mr Maayah said e-voting was more secure than traditional methods.

"In manual voting, there's always the chance for people to have an entire ballot box prepared somewhere and brought to the scene," he said. "That's how it's done in places where there is corruption in elections. With e-voting it's impossible."

The machines will be distributed in the coming weeks in anticipation of the September 24 elections. They are being assigned based on the needs of each voting district, said Tariq Lootah, the under secretary of the Ministry of Federal National Council Affairs and a member of the NEC.

"We have calculated the number of machines needed for each station based on the number of people voting in the area, as well as the ease of access," Mr Lootah said. "At some polling stations there will be over 100 machines."

Meanwhile, Takatof, the national volunteering organisation, is working to recruit up to 1,000 volunteers to assist on voting day, with 420 already registered.

A nationwide outreach campaign will also start next week to drum up interest in the poll.

Dr Gargash encouraged all Emiratis who are entitled to vote to take part.

"Wide participation in the 2011 Federal National Council elections is a must, as the participant number will influence the trends of the parliamentary work in future phases," he said. "We hope that all members of the electoral college will exercise their right to vote and choose their representatives practically and logically to activate FNC's debates in the next legislative term."

mcroucher@thenational.ae