x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Woman elected as deputy speaker is first in GCC

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, a reappointed member of the FNC, has been unanimously elected to become the first female deputy speaker in a GCC national assembly.

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi raises her hand to speak during the inaugural FNC session. The appointed member from Abu Dhabi was elected deputy speaker of the council.
Dr Amal Al Qubaisi raises her hand to speak during the inaugural FNC session. The appointed member from Abu Dhabi was elected deputy speaker of the council.

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, a reappointed member of the FNC, has become the first female deputy speaker in a GCC national assembly.

After yesterday's opening ceremony, members unanimously elected Mohammed Ahmed Al Mur, an appointed member from Dubai, as the speaker, then Dr Al Qubaisi as the first deputy speaker.

The reappointed member from Abu Dhabi praised Sheikha Fatima, widow of the founding President Sheikh Zayed, for her encouragement and support for women taking leadership roles.

"Today to see the Emirati woman as a deputy speaker shows how much support the Emirates has for women to race into leadership roles," Dr Al Qubaisi said.

"We owe this to our leaders, and we will never forget the role of the mother of the UAE, who has been calling for women to take posts in the FNC since 20 years."

But when it came to electing the second deputy speaker, four raised their hands to compete.

They were: Abdullah Al Shamsi (elected, Ajman), a former police official; Ahmad Al Shamsi (appointed, Ajman), a retired armed forces brigadier general; Dr Abdul-Rahim Shaheen, (appointed, Ras Al Khaimah), a political science teacher; and Sheikha Eissa (elected, Umm Al Qaiwain), an academic.

Rashad Bukhash (elected, Dubai), suggested each candidate should give a brief summary of their experience.

"I have been a teacher in many schools in the UAE, and have taught many generations who are now in many fields," said Sheikha Eissa, the only woman elected this year.

After all four gave a briefing on themselves, the members voted.

The votes had to be counted twice before it was found that no candidate had an outright majority.

Members then voted between the two with the most votes - Abdullah Al Shamsi with 16 votes and Dr Shaheen with 11. Mr Al Shamsi won by 26 votes to 13.

"This is a proof of the democracy we are learning. Hopefully we will learn more," he said after being declared the winner.

Choosing members of committees proved to be not so simple. Some members argued the vote should be postponed until the next session.

Others, including Mr Al Mur, favoured tradition, which was to finish the process that session.

"I say the missions of the committees are clear there is nothing yet to be clarified, I say we vote and finish," argued Mr Bukhash.

Mohammed Al Qubaisi (elected, Abu Dhabi) again asked for more time but a reappointed member, Ali Al Jassem (Dubai), objected.

Mr Al Jassem said that in past sessions members had joined and left committees from time to time, so an election now would not bind them for the four-year term.

"This session is for procedures, we need to complete these things," he told Mr Al Mur.

Most wanted to elect the committees there and then.

Later, many experienced members said the procedural hang-ups were no surprise.

"You expect this to happen. It is normal," said Mr Al Mur.

Dr Al Qubaisi celebrated the fact that new members were getting so involved.

"It is a beautiful thing to have elections and the new members joining in and their keenness to join the different committees," she said. "We tried as old members to help them and clarify things, and to give them priority for the committee seats."

As nominations for the seven members of each of the eight committees progressed, more candidates stepped forward each time.

To save time, the council decided to settle it without a vote, having some candidates drop out until the number reached seven - sometimes after a little haggling with the speaker over who was best qualified.

hdajani@thenational.ae

osalem@thenational.ae