x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Voting for FNC will be 'easier than using ATM'

An advertisement campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the FNC among potential voters. Meanwhile, more details of the election have been released, including the number of polling stations.

Voting in the forthcoming election for the Federal National Council will be easier than using an ATM machine, officials said.

The pledge came as a media campaign was launched to raise awareness before the largest election in UAE history.

More than 80,000 Emiratis can go to the polls to elect 20 of the 40 members of the FNC. The names of those eligible to vote will be announced soon.

Officials said the number of polling stations will increase to 14 from seven in 2006 - the year of the first election when 6,595 were entitled to vote.

Each station will be able to accommodate 5,000 to 10,000 people during the day and will be set up in government buildings, universities, wedding halls and clubs.

Candidates could spend up to Dh2 million on their campaigns, said Tariq Lootah, the undersecretary of the ministry of FNC Affairs and member of the National Election Committee (NEC).

"It depends on his activity and how clever he is in reaching the maximum number of voters in his city," Mr Lootah said.

“Media campaigns themselves, I don’t believe, are efficient.

“He needs to also have a good reputation, be well known, have a good network, and people must have confidence in him. These things also play a major role.”

Mr Lootah said the first part of the TV and newspaper advertising campaign to raise awareness of the elections would focus on the development of the FNC and the UAE.

The second part, which will be launched after the names of people eligible to vote and stand for election are released, will inform voters of the procedure they must follow, and what their rights are.

If the name of a voter drawn belongs to someone over the age of 25, and he or she is the holder of a good conduct certificate, they can then apply to be a candidate.

Once the electoral college is announced, the role of the NEC will change to monitor individual campaigns. Candidates will be required to submit a detailed media plan, including costs, before canvassing begins.

Mr Lootah said officials from the Ruler’s office of an emirate, police, municipality, and two individuals from the private sector would help to monitor candidates’ campaigns.

The announcements have been welcomed by Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, the only women elected at the last election. She said the increase in the number of polling stations would be beneficial, especially for female voters.

“There were a lot of people we contacted from Al Ain, from Abu Dhabi, to come and vote, but it was hard for them to come, especially ladies,” she said. “It was harder for them to travel.”

She said that informing citizens in advance of what was expected of campaigners was important so that no offences were committed.

During her campaign, she said she needed to reprint banners and other campaign material to remove use of the UAE flag, which is not allowed under election rules.

Mr Lootah said: “In every election, candidates always monitor other candidates because they are competitors,” he said. Complaints about misconduct by campaigners would be investigated by the NEC, he said.

Polling stations will be manned by a team of monitors and volunteers from 8am and 7pm on the day of the election and will consist of an ID checkpoint and a voting booth.

Dr Obaid Al Mihiri, a formerly elected FNC member, welcomed the large number of volunteers to take part. Organisers hope 600 people will sign up to help.

“I always wanted something like this to be included in school curriculums,” he said. “I think it is something we have to work on – it is part of culture and Islam, yet it is missing somehow.”