More transparency needed as UAE political system matures, analysts say

While an increase in voters ia a positive step in the UAE's development, analysts say more transparency is needed regarding the criteria to be fulfilled to be eligible to vote.

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ABU DHABI // An increase in voters is a positive step in the country's development, analysts said.

However, questions remain regarding the criteria to be fulfilled to be eligible to vote.

“It is consistent with the gradual approach to practise voting and to practise elections for a greater number of Emiratis,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, political science professor at UAE University.

“As it stands, it is consistent with this empowerment that we have been hearing about and the increase is credible, meaning over 50 per cent, so, all in all, it looks like one step forward.”

Despite this, more transparency was needed, he said. “How do you go about selecting these electoral votes? What are the criteria? We do not really know, and we are in the dark.”

One issue that must be addressed, he said, was why some citizens were being refused the right to vote. “Some are allowed and others aren’t allowed to vote, and in a way, it is an injustice to those who really want to vote and to see their names in the list.

“So, these questions aside, you have experimentation and democracy, in a way. It is very uniquely UAE, it is definitely one step forward in terms of the number of people voting.

“I am happy to see when people vote and practise their right, but somebody has to address these questions.”

Dr Mohammed bin Huwaidin, chair of the university’s political science department, agreed.

“It is a positive step, particularly in creating a new culture of people who never practised such a culture,” he said.

“I think it is an important step to implement, with all the things that are taking place around us. With the instabilities and many problems that are happening around us, it is very important to move slowly in such a practice.”

The voting process should be more inclusive, he said.

“It is important to keep enhancing this participation. I think it’s a positive step towards creating a population that’s much more knowledgeable and aware, and has a much better political culture of what’s happening in the UAE and in the region.”

Taufiq Rahim, a Dubai-based political analyst, said: “The increase in eligible voters is consistent with the incremental effort by authorities to build citizen engagement through the FNC over the past decade. Candidates for the council will have to engage a broader set of concerns from UAE nationals and we will likely see more aggressive campaigning during the election cycle compared to previous years.”

Dr Theodore Karasik, a geopolitical analyst, said the UAE wanted the FNC to be a true representative body of Emirati society. “The rising numbers of those who are eligible to run and to vote is a sign that the country’s political system is maturing,” he said.

“This development is positive because this is UAE democracy at its best. The FNC is standing up on its own as an important policy-making body in its own right.”

More on the FNC election:

Emiratis want more engagement with FNC candidates

Emiratis keen to make their voices heard in October FNC election

Analysis: UAE's political empowerment programe Tamkeen on track for success