FNC say campaign spending no guarantee of victory

In the 2011 elections, there was a Dh2 million spending cap, but current members said their campaigns cost much less.

Member Salem bin Huwaidan spent Dh70,000 on his campaign, and says the Dh2m cap is too high. Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // Spending heavily in the last Federal National Council election did not help candidates to win votes, elected members have said.

The National Election Committee placed a Dh2 million spending cap on campaigns in 2011. Many of those who won seats said they did not spend anywhere near that amount.

This week, members of the FNC wanted to remind those planning to run this year that they should rely on personal connections and their track record to prove their worth.

Those who are unknown and decide to run on a whim do not stand a chance, they said.

Ahmed Ahli, from Dubai, said in 2011 those who reached the Dh2m spending cap with extravagant and costly media campaigns were not noticed by the public. If anything, it worked against them.

“People should notice that those who won the race in 2011 were not big spenders,” Mr Ahli said.

He said big media campaigns were not effective in the UAE, where society relies on personal relationships, judging people by their experience, their family lineage and what the family has contributed to society.

“You will win votes if people are happy with you and they value you,” he said. “They will see how much you’ve supported society. This will not come in one day. It is something you should have been working on all your life.”

Mr Ahli said a big mistake for candidates is opening a majlis once the election period starts.

“People will know that you only opened it for the elections,” he said. “This will work against you.”

Salem bin Huwaidan, from Sharjah, said he spent Dh70,000 and that the cap was unrealistically high.

“It is not about spending, it’s all about relations,” Mr bin Huwaidan said, adding that he did not care if the NEC this year decided to place the cap at Dh10m or remove it altogether.

“Communication and interaction were more important than election campaigns and adverts. People did not care for adverts, they saw what people did for the country and the people.”

But Salem Al Ameri, of Abu Dhabi, said he would like to see the cap brought down to Dh1m to ensure equal competition.

“The media abused the election period by raising their advertising costs,” Mr Al Ameri said. “The cap should be brought down to ensure everyone has an equal chance during the elections.

“The elections are a national event. Media outlets should not be allowed to abuse such an event and should be restrained.”

Gharib Al Saridi (Fujairah) said he spent Dh100,000.

Mr Al Saridi said he hoped that this year people would vote for deserving professional candidates who had an ability to stand up to a “sheikh or a minister” during FNC debates, rather than shy away.