SHARJAH // Emiratis have welcomed a ruling allowing citizens to vote and stand in elections to become members of the Sharjah Advisory Council, describing the news as “thrilling” and a “chance to contribute” to decisions that will affect their lives.
Earlier this month, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi, Sharjah’s Ruler, ordered amendments to the laws governing the 42-member council.
The ruling means half of the council will be directly elected by Emiratis, with the other half appointed by Sheikh Sultan.
Nominees for council membership must be Emirati, aged 25 or older, registered in and a permanent resident of Sharjah, of good standing in the community and without a criminal record.
“It is a great addition,” said Al Qaraen resident Yaqoub Alhamadi. “The new law issued by the Ruler gives us residents a chance to contribute in the decision-making of our emirate.”
Mr Alhamadi said elections for council positions, as with elections for the Federal National Council, would instil a sense of patriotism and nationalism in Emiratis.
The role of the advisory council, established in 1999, is to assist Sheikh Sultan in all matters of society, to form opinions and offer advice. The council can accept or reject laws submitted to it by the executive council and can also accept complaints and suggestions from residents and work to resolve any issues.
Sheikh Sultan said the decision to have him choose half the council was to address any deficiencies arising from the elections.
“Let’s assume that the elections did not fill the quota of women in the council, I will appoint the rest of them to fill the gap,” he said.
He also said that the appointment of members by him would ensure that the council had the required expertise to assist in the decision-making process.
Hamad Naser, 27, said allowing Emiratis to vote “will bring new, young blood to the council”.
“It’s good to have the input of our generation in the building process of the emirate,” said the Al Dhaid resident.
However, although he is eligible to stand for election, Mr Naser ruled himself out of the running for a spot on the council.
“The idea of getting nominated is thrilling, however, it will be a huge responsibility which I don’t want at this time,” he said.
The eighth iteration of the Sharjah Advisory Council completed its four-year term on June 13. Dates for the new elections are yet to be announced but voting is expected to take place after FNC elections in October.
Ahmad Alhajiri, the council’s chairman, said the ruling by Sheikh Sultan was part of a national movement.
“The new law calls on residents of the emirate to take part in building the future of the emirate,” he said. “It needs the initiative of residents and their support.”
Fatima Alsewidi, 21, said citizens have an “opportunity and responsibility to enrol in such a big opportunity”.
“Through our chosen candidates we will transfer our needs and opinions to the government,” said the fourth year university student.