Largest FNC election yet will give more Emiratis a voice

Plans to expand the number of voters are another step towards greater representation

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 22 MAY 2019. Federal National Council meeting. FNC. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Haneen Dajani. Section: National.
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When the first Federal National Council elections were held 13 years ago, fewer than 7,000 Emiratis were eligible to vote. Now that the voting system has reached its teen years, nearly 50 times that number have been invited to have their say in another reflection of the seismic reforms underway in this country. Nationwide elections on October 5 for the FNC will be the largest to date, with more than 330,000 Emiratis eligible to vote.

As Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of State for FNC affairs and chairman of the election committee, says, it is “yet another step on the UAE’s political empowerment and engagement journey”. The increase in voters marks a 50 per cent increase from the last election in 2015, in a process which enables citizens and their representatives to participate in shaping their country, giving them a platform to voice their concerns, express their aspirations for the nation’s direction and have an audience with the UAE’s leaders. It is the modern-day majlis and with greater numbers invited in, it promises an even more inclusive system.

In Sheikh Zayed's lifetime, decisions would often be issued on chits of paper to those gathered in his majlis. As the UAE has grown and its population diversified, so too have laws expanded to include more of those impacted by its development and infrastructure. It is essential this opportunity is not wasted. FNC elections are a chance for Emiratis to make their voices heard.

The council speaks for all citizens, bringing issues that matter to their constituents to the table and summonsing ministers for questioning about critical policies. Its members have the power and position to effect positive change through its consultative process. Thanks to a royal decree last year, the body will now have an equal number of male and female members.

Change is hard-won and often forgotten when it becomes the norm, but it is a duty upon all those eligible to make the most of their voting rights come October. Traditionally, turnout has been less than 40 per cent in FNC elections. But the expansion of the voter pool illustrates the government’s desire to have the council be more representative of Emiratis from different walks of life. All Emiratis on the list are also eligible to stand as candidates and many serious and thoughtful aspirants are already coming forward to represent the people of their emirate.

So, as the nation prepares to hold its largest election yet, voters are urged to question their candidates and head to the polls on election day. They can then ensure that they are represented when it comes to deciding the future of their nation.