Knowledge is key in FNC elections

For Emiratis to be invested in the upcoming FNC elections, they must know what they are voting for.

On Tuesday, officials at the National Election Committee (NEC) concluded a series of public seminars that offered guidelines to candidates as they embark on election campaigns for seats on the Federal National Council (FNC). The rights and duties of the candidates, and the regulations governing the elections and campaigns, were discussed.

"The NEC has organised several informative seminars for different sections of society including our staff, students, armed forces personnel and police," said Tariq Hilal Lootah, the chairman of the election management committee.

As The National reported yesterday, the guidelines include limiting spending to Dh2 million and banning the use of national emblems and symbols in the campaigns. Candidates are also prohibited from making promises outside the remit of the council.

This election will be only the second one since the establishment of the council in 1972, and apart from Abu Dhabi-based Rashid Ali al Murrer, none of the nominees have previously been elected to the FNC. Knowledge of the rules is vital for these candidates.

But it is equally important that voters are fully aware of the exact role of the FNC, and what it can do for them. There is a clear will on the part of the Government to expand the mumbers of the electoral college and the powers of the FNC, in a gradual manner. The number of eligible voters rose from 6,595 in 2006 to 129,274 this year. While it is the job of campaigners to ensure voters know what is on their agenda, the Government must educate them on their rights, and what their votes mean.

The FNC has no legislative powers but can propose draft laws and discuss regulation. Above all, it has the ear of the nation's leaders.

Emiratis commonly refer to the FNC in Arabic as "al majlis", an appropriate description. Traditionally, the majlis is a place where leaders regularly meet with their people to discuss concerns and current affairs. The FNC is seen as a modern-day majlis, where representatives of the people deliberate over economic, social and political affairs with legislators and authorities.

Increasingly, Emiratis will become aware of how the FNC can serve them. Registering their votes is the best way to make sure that happens.

Published: August 25, 2011 04:00 AM