Hundreds of Emiratis turned out at polling stations in Dubai and Sharjah on Wednesday to cast their votes in the Federal National Council elections.
Early voting opened at nine election centres in all emirates to allow senior citizens, disabled persons and those who are unable to vote on Federal National Council election day on Saturday, to cast their ballots.
The same centres will be open again on Thursday, from 9am to 6pm, before all 24 centres open for voting on Saturday from 8am to 8pm, when most Emiratis will vote.
Remote voting, introduced for the first time this year will be open until 8pm, October 7,
There are 398,879 people eligible to vote in this year's election, an 18.1 per cent increase from 2019.
Among the early voters was Ibraheem Saeed, 67, who is blind and arrived at the voting centre at Dubai World Trade Centre with the help of friends.
“I insisted on coming in person to practise my right,” Mr Saeed told The National.
"I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to my nation’s future."
A first-time voter in the FNC elections, Mr Saeed said his decision was informed by the candidates' programmes.
“I searched in the candidates’ programmes and came here to pick the best one who can represent me and serve our needs.”
Khalifa Al Felasi, 48, said he noticed an increased voter awareness this year.
“Usually, Emiratis used to vote for their friends and relatives. This year I noticed people searching for the candidates’ agenda and what they will offer,” Mr Al Felasi said.
As a regular voter, he appreciated the technological advances, such as remote voting.
“It's a very important step as people can vote using their mobile phone,” he said.
Rashid Mohammed, 29, a public department employee in Sharjah, told The National that he analysed all the candidates before casting his vote.
“I voted for the candidate who I hope is best equipped to represent the community and effectively channel their voices,” he said.
Mr Rashid praised the "nobody" option on the ballot. “It's a practical choice for uncertain voters.”
Fatma Al Marri, who praised the organisation of the vote in Dubai, said she was there to cast a vote for her daughter, who is a candidate in the election.
“It is a national duty and for the benefit of our country. Everyone should participate in the elections,” she told The National.
Ahmed Al Qasim, 67, echoed similar sentiments and said the FNC has an important role to play in the UAE's future.
“It’s an honour to be able to participate in the election. This is a historic moment and I want to have a say in the decisions that will impact our country’s future,” Mr Al Qasim said.
Essa Al Mutaiwei, chairman of Dubai Committee for the 2023 FNC Elections, reported smooth operations with 33 electronic voting booths at the World Trade Centre in Dubai.
“Our job is to ease the process for voters. We call upon them to actively participate to choose their candidates,” he said.
Counsellor Issa bin Handal, chairman of Sharjah Committee for the 2023 FNC Elections, was pleased with the impressive turnout.
“We urge eligible voters to take part in this significant national process,” he said.
He said the process was very smooth with 29 electronic voting booths, including one dedicated to disabled voters, and a large number of volunteers on hand to help.
With 309 candidates to choose from, including 128 women and 36 candidates aged between 25 and 36, this year's FNC elections are drawing broad interest.
Only Emiratis whose names are on the Electoral College List have the right to vote.
The FNC, the UAE's consultative parliament, plays a pivotal role in shaping policies, fostering dialogue and ensuring the representation of Emirati voices at national level.
Comprising 40 members – 20 elected representatives and 20 who are appointed – the FNC provides a platform for discussion, debate and decision-making on matters of national importance.