More than 180 women set to contest Federal National Council elections

The UAE's largest election to date will take place in October

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Close to 200 women are set to contest this year's Federal National Council elections — more than double the number who took part when the country last went to the polls.

A total of 182 female candidates have been included on a 499-strong preliminary list of contenders before  the nationwide vote, which takes place on October 5.

The sharp increase comes on the heels of a decree issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa last December calling for Emirati women to make up 50 per cent of the council.

This year's elections will be the largest to date, both in  the number of candidates and the size of the electorate.

In 2015, 252 people stood for election to the council 78 of whom were women.

More than 330,000 Emiratis chosen among the Electoral College will be able to cast their ballots to elect members of the UAE’s advisory council.

Half of the FNC members are chosen through the election, with the remainder appointed by the government. Sheikh Khalifa’s decree guarantees women will comprise half the seats, even if they are not all elected by the public.

Currently, there are eight women members — representing 20 per cent of the 40 available seats. The women include the Chairperson and Speaker of the FNC, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, who became the first woman leader of a national assembly in the UAE and Arab world three years ago. Dr Al Qubaisi was also the first woman elected to the FNC in 2006.

The move to bolster female representation in the political process has been widely welcomed in the Emirates.

After Sheikh Khalifa's announcement late last year, prominent figures were quick to pledge their support.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the decision was "a great leap forwards cementing the legislative and parliamentary role of women in our nation's development".

"Women are half of our society: they should be represented as such," he said.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, also hailed efforts to provide gender balance in the political arena.

He argued the move was "an additional step to enhancing women's roles and contributions to national decision-making".

He said: "Emirati women are partners and supporters of our country's development and are models of giving and excellence. We wish them luck and success."

Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs and chairman of the National Election Commission has urged Emiratis to ensure their names are included in the list of electoral committees to allow them to vote.

"Contributing to the electoral process is a national responsibility, and is highlighted by the active participation of members of electoral committees in the selection of qualified candidates capable of serving their country and people," said Mr Al Owais.

The National Election Commission will accept objections regarding candidates from Monday to Thursday and will announce its response on September 1.

Candidates have registered across the country this month.