x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

RAK candidates 'to work for country as a whole'

RAK candidates say the country's interests should come ahead of the emirate's.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Candidates in the emirate have stressed that they will not only be self-focused but will work for the country as a whole. National identity, heritage, youth and inclusion are some of the concepts being discussed by candidates.

"You are chosen by RAK but you are representing the whole UAE," said Ayman Al Sharhan, a senior finance manager at Etisalat. "You cannot talk about issues for RAK, because the committee will decide for the whole UAE."

Candidates are quick to emphasise that the role of a council member is that of a intermediary.

"The FNC should be a supporter, a guidance to the government but not the one who is doing the work of the government," said Abdulla Al Abdouli, a master's student at Paris-Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi. "We are expressing what the people want, we need to talk to both parties, and that is the difficult thing.

"You can't give a promise, but you give ideas, you give thoughts."

He cited job creation as an example. Mr Al Abdouli, 26, wants the government to encourage small and medium-sized businesses, instead of expanding government employment or welfare benefits.

His thesis in regional and urban planning explores ways Abu Dhabi and Dubai complement each other, a concept in national unity he wants to bring to the FNC.

"I want to talk about several issues - issues like the nation of the UAE becoming one country," said Mr Al Abdouli. "We don't want to speak about emirate by emirate. I am someone who is supporting the federal system. That is my main issue, that we are all in the UAE."

Aside from identity, housing and emiratisation in the private sector are the two key issues for the northernmost emirate, where many are still reluctant to join the private sector despite an increase in industry, tourism and commerce in RAK over the past five years. The emirate's GDP has grown from Dh10.5 billion to more than Dh17bn since the last elections in 2006.

Voters "are looking for houses, they are looking for jobs", said Mr Al Sharhan, 41. "There are limited jobs and a lot of nationals, so they are looking to improve their income. Some are at home, some are in lower salaried jobs. This requires a lot of studies and attention. They have done a lot of things in the government but we could help just to speed it up," he said.

Mr Al Sharhan started his campaign with a drive around the city at midnight to see the faces of his competition erected on lampposts throughout the city. Hundreds of lampposts had transformed overnight into election platforms.

One of the city's three lamppost advertising companies sold 142 out of 150 boards to candidates for Dh2,000 a post. "For the politicians it's an emergency," said Shahzad Rafique, of Alpha Bulletin Board. "Other commercial advertisements, they can wait 20 days."

Mr Al Sharhan refused sponsorship and distributed advertisements at his own cost, but will rely primarily on a phone list of 1,000 names."You should believe in me if you vote for me," he said. "Give your vote to the right guy. You choose the good candidate."

Mr Al Abdouli decided to run after he saw the diversity of names on the first list of candidates. He is one of the youngest candidates in RAK.

"At this time when I was reading the list I didn't feel it's all propaganda or famous names. There is a trend that is happening; the government is right now going towards the young generation. I said, 'OK, Abdulla, what am I going to do'?"

azacharias@thenational.ae