x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Voters sought high degree of talent

More than a third of candidates running for FNC office did not have university degrees, and only four of those were elected.

Ministers and members attend an FNC session in Abu Dhabi last month.
Ministers and members attend an FNC session in Abu Dhabi last month.

Emiratis paid close attention to the education levels of the FNC candidates when voting in last September's elections, figures show.

Statistics released last week show more than a third of the candidates, 187 of the 450, did not have university degrees. Of those 187, only four were elected - a success rate barely over 2 per cent.

At the other end of the scale, only 2 per cent had doctorates. Of those 12 candidates, three were elected for a 25 per cent success rate.

This means the 20 elected members of the FNC are a far more educated sample than the pool of candidates from which they were chosen.

The appointed candidates skewed the council further towards the educated, with more members in each category of tertiary training and none with only school education. Half of the appointed members had a master's degree or doctorate.

The six women appointed to the FNC were highly educated, with all at least holding a bachelor's degree and three with doctorates.

Some members, such as the reappointed Ali Jassim of Umm Al Quwain, would like a degree to be a formal requirement for the council.

"A person who wants to be a candidate needs to have knowledge in everything," Mr Jassim said. "They need experience in many areas, and have to know more about the constitution and the UAE."

But Dr Mohammed Al Mazroui, the secretary general and a former member of the FNC, disagreed.

Dr Al Mazroui preferred that the UAE, like most countries, avoided conditions for candidacy.

"The conditions are usually very simple in most countries to reflect society, the educated and uneducated," he said. "But always the appointing makes up in any shortage. In any council the appointment completes what is missed in the elections."

And even with "simple" election rules, Dr Al Mazroui said the education level of FNC members had been on the rise.

"Now we have development in education in the UAE," he said. "Now we have members who are more educated. We cannot say they were worse before but now life is complex. Cases that appear before the FNC are now more complicated."

Dr Al Mazroui said that "in the end all members were members of the community", and must be a mirror of society.

Faisal Al Teniji, an elected member from Ras Al Khaimah, said education and work experience were important but the members' varying backgrounds was crucial.

"The cooperation and consensus between members is very high in the council," said Mr Al Teniji. "The FNC now has 40 experts. We all participate, whether in session or in committees."

Dr Sheikha Al Owais, an appointed member from Sharjah, agreed: "All members bring a piece of their field into the council and in the end we all have the same goal.

"I would say we know each other around 90 per cent. Some are quiet but in the committees we all work more. There you cannot find a single person quiet."

Mr Al Teniji said for future candidates to have a chance of winning, they needed to keep track of the council's work and be close to members in their city.

"I was constantly in touch with previous members," he said. "And my grandfather was in the first Federal National Council."

osalem@thenational.ae