A significant increase in the number of those who are eligible to vote in this year’s FNC elections is taking political empowerment in the UAE in the right direction.
About one in five Emiratis has the right to vote in this year’s FNC elections and almost half of them are women.
The increase in the electoral college of 66 per cent, from 129,274 in 2011 to 224,279 this year, was both expected and welcomed, an indication that the country is on course in its political empowerment programme, Tamkeen.
Inclusion into the electoral college also presents Emiratis with a chance to run for a seat on the council should they so wish.
The steep increase in voters puts pressure on the National Election Commission (NEC) to raise election literacy for those new to the system in time for election day on October 3.
Although the number of female voters has increased by 2 per cent, the number of women voted on to the FNC has remained static with only one winning a seat in each of the 2006 and 2011 elections.
However, the increase in the number of female voters, and therefore the number of women eligible to run for a seat on the council, shows the country’s leadership is fully committed to tipping the scales in favour of female members.
This has also been reflected in the number of women appointed to the council. In 2006, eight joined Dr Amal Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi), who won a seat in the election that year. In 2011, six were appointed to join Dr Sheikha Al Eri (Umm Al Quwain), the only woman to win a seat that year.
Although the NEC has prepared the public by announcing changes to this year’s election, including the one-vote-per-person system, there was one change that was not anticipated. The NEC’s website will not be showing the full alphabetical list of names of those eligible to vote – as was the case in the previous two elections.
This year, Emiratis will have to enter their details on the website to see if their names have been added to those eligible to vote. This can be done by using one’s first, middle and last name or by inputting one’s Emirates ID number.
The new system will provide voters with the anonymity they had previously called for but also means candidates will have their work cut out for them as they try to convince voters to give them their backing.
In the past candidates had complained that the names of voters was not enough and wanted personal phone numbers to be released alongside voters’ names.
The absence of a public list also means election enthusiasts will not be able to check for the names of families and friends. In 2011, a friend of Ahmed Al Ahli, an FNC member from Dubai, was the one who discovered his name on the list and told him to run for a seat. Mr Al Ahli admitted that checking the list for his name, when it was released, had not crossed his mind.
The inability to check others’ names on the list, though, may have its advantages.
Nationals who have not made the cut can save themselves public embarrassment or frustration.
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Ola Salem is a freelance journalist and a former political correspondent for The National
Emiratis can find out if they are eligible to vote by checking the NEC website.