ABU DHABI // Oration, education and the electoral campaign of a candidate were the major influences on who Emiratis voted for in the recent FNC elections, a study shows.
The report, How do Emirati Voters Determine for Whom to Vote in FNC Elections? by UAE University professors Abdulfattah Yaghi and Osman Antwi-Boateng, questioned 1,800 Emirati voters, out of which 1,518 results were assessed.
About 86 per cent of the interviewed sample considered a candidate’s speechmaking skills as a major factor in their appeal.
As for education, about 81.6 per cent said they preferred voting for well-educated candidates because they believed they were likely to do the job better.
For Abdlrahman bin Taliah, a 32-year-old private sector employee who participated in the past two elections, the candidate’s education was not a primary factor.
“One could have a doctorate and he is 22 but he does not have any experience,” he said.
He voted for Salem Al Shamsi, Sharjah, not only because he knew the candidate but because he was a recognised personality.
“Knowing him from before makes the choice easier because you know the qualifications of that person,” Mr bin Taliah said.
He chose between what he thought were three admirable candidates, “but for me the one I voted for stood out the most”.
“He is in his 60s and a retired general,” he said.
Mr bin Taliah did not consider the content of the electoral campaigns much in making his choice.
“The campaigns are all the same, all candidates agreed on three or four points that are important for the future of the UAE, such as education, health and empowerment of women.”
Aishah Ali, a 27-year-old master’s student, did vote for a candidate based on campaign. She voted for a woman because her campaign focused on family issues.
“I felt that overall she would benefit the discussions in the council if she won with her experience in childcare and family development,” Ms Ali said.
“I looked at the campaigns and hers stood out for me, [even though] she lacked presence in the presentation period.”
The study found that for 60.9 per cent of the voters, age was a major factor in choosing a candidate, with many opting for older, more experienced options.
The content of the campaign mattered to 49.2 per cent of respondents while 48 per cent selected their preferred candidate on the basis of gender.
“It does not mean anything to me if the candidate is a man or a woman, as long as he is capable and has the qualifications and knowledge,” said Mr bin Taliah.
When it comes to personal knowledge or a relationship with the candidate, 47.3 per cent favoured candidates they knew.
“In a small, closely-knit tribal society such as the UAE, it will be almost impossible to ignore familial ties in any form of voting, even if there is no expectation of quid pro quo,” the report’s authors said.
However, kinship ties did score “lower than expected”, with 43.4 per cent considering it a priority.
“There is ample evidence that tribal and kinship ties are increasingly becoming less important in Emirati electoral behaviour,” the report said.
“This is evidenced by the fact that in the 2011 elections, although Abu Dhabi emirate is home to several tribes, there was no evidence of tribal voting.”