Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid opens first session of the new Federal National Council

Half of the members of the parliamentary group were elected last month

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, opened the first session of the new Federal National Council term in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Twenty members of the 40-member Emirati parliamentary group were elected last month, with the other 20 appointed by the rulers of each emirate.

The members, half of whom are women, represent the UAE population. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have eight members each while Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah both have six. Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain have four.

"Today we inaugurated the convening of the new Federal National Council," Sheikh Mohammed said, writing on social media following the start of the 18th term of the council.

"We had a successful electoral experience and we established a new milestone in the journey of empowerment.

"Today, the council launches as a supporting, guiding and assisting authority for the government, conveying the aspirations of the people of the union. May God guide everyone for the good of the country and its people."

The new council's legislative term was inaugurated in the presence of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Court, alongside Crown Princes, Deputy Rulers, ministers and senior civil and military officials.

Its first task was to elect its speaker. Saqr Ghobash was re-elected to the position, and spoke about the established principles set forth by the UAE’s leadership, which he said have "guided the development of a strong nation that enjoys high levels of security and safety, and provides an exceptional quality of life for its people and residents".

He reiterated the importance of drawing inspiration from the UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to work diligently for the development of the UAE.

Mr Ghobash stressed the council's keenness to deepen co-operation with UAE government entities to support efforts to advance the country’s development.

The council plays an important role in providing a platform for discussion, debate and decision-making on matters of national importance and conveying the concerns of citizens on issues from roads to jobs.

Increased awareness

Remote voting was introduced for the first time this year, from inside and outside the Emirates. A hybrid system was created, which combines remote and in-person voting to maximise convenience. The new system allowed voters to cast their ballots through approved digital applications.

In 2018, the late President Sheikh Khalifa directed that women occupy half of the seats of the council. The ruling came into effect for the FNC's 17th legislative chapter, which began in November 2019.

The 20 successful candidates, announced last month, were chosen from 298 candidates.

The largest number of candidates of 118 were in Abu Dhabi, while Dubai had 57, Sharjah 50, and Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah had 21, 34, 14 and 15, respectively.

Candidates launched their election campaigns on September 11 for 23 days. Their campaigns proved to be successful as early voters told The National how they were more aware of candidates 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,” Khalifa Al Felasi, 48, told The National.

A total of 398,879 people were eligible to vote but only 175,487 did so, including 5,042 from outside the country.

The highest number of voters came from Abu Dhabi with 56,471, followed by Ras Al Khaimah with 35,357, and Sharjah with 29,996.

Dr Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of State for FNC Affairs and chairman of the NEC, said: “Early voting witnessed a good turnout, with a 44 per cent increase in the number of voters from 2019, which stood at 117,592.”

Updated: November 06, 2023, 5:04 PM