The UAE will hold its largest election to date later this year, with more than 330,000 Emiratis eligible to vote for the Federal National Council in October.
The names of the 337,738 citizens eligible to vote were released on Sunday by the National Election Committee. The electoral college list represents a 50 per cent increase in voters compared with previous election.
During the last FNC election in 2015, about 224,000 Emiratis were eligible to vote, up from 129,000 in 2011 and from fewer than 7,000 in 2006.
“The surge in the number of electoral college members is yet another step on the UAE’s political empowerment and engagement journey,” said Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of State for FNC Affairs and chairman of the election committee.
“It reinforces the keen interest of the country’s leadership in enabling citizens to participate in decision-making.”
This year’s list also includes greater inclusion of women and young people, with Emirati women representing 50.62 per cent and people aged 21 to 40 making up 61.32 per cent.
“This highlights the unwavering belief of the UAE leadership in the active role of women in advancing parliamentary work, serving the country and representing their fellow citizens,” the election committee said.
It is the latest in a push to increase Emirati women's participation in politics. Last year, President Sheikh Khalifa called for women members to make up 50 per cent of the coming FNC. Women held only 8 of the 40 available seats in the last FNC.
The list issued on Sunday split the number of Emiratis eligible to vote based on the emirate they live in.
The list identified 101,549 voters from Abu Dhabi, 60,772 from Dubai, 64,293 from Sharjah, 10,165 from Ajman, 6,653 from Umm Al Quwain, 55,289 from Ras Al Khaimah and 39,017 from Fujairah. The full list of names is on the committee's website - www.uaenec.ae - where voters must validate their names by entering their Emirates ID number.
Those included have the right to vote once in person and cannot have someone vote on their behalf.
Similarly, all Emiratis on the list are eligible to nominate themselves as a candidate for the FNC.
Mohamed Alali, 39, will be voting for the first time this year after finding his name included on the list.
The lawyer, who lives in Abu Dhabi, said he was happy to see that more Emiratis were given the right to vote.
“This gives a chance for more nationals to vote and deliver their voice to the government,” he said.
Though he is keen to exercise his right, Mr Alali said he had no interest in running for the council.
Amal Abbas, 28, will be voting for the second time, having first been included in the electoral college list in 2015.
“I voted last term and I am prepared to vote this term,” said the communications specialist.
“A perfect candidate for me would be someone who is aware of the ongoing social changes and trends in the country, and who can commit to positive changes.”
She said she is particularly concerned with youth representation.
“They are a big part of our community and they will be able to voice trends and concerns of the youth if guided correctly.”
She also hopes candidates will present ideas for how to better care for elderly Emiratis.
“The government is providing the necessary facilities; however, there is more that can be done in terms of retirement plans and healthcare.
“Any candidate who looks at those two groups will be interesting for me; to see what changes they can provide for the country in the next four years.”
What is the FNC?
The Federal National Council is one of five federal authorities established by the UAE constitution. It held its first session on December 2, 1972, a year to the day after federation.
It has 40 members, eight of whom are women. The speaker of the house, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, is also a woman.
The members represent the UAE population through each of the emirates. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have eight members each, Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah six, and Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain have four.
They bring Emirati issues to the council for debate and put those concerns to ministers summoned for questioning.
The FNC’s main functions include passing, amending or rejecting draft federal laws, discussing international treaties and agreements, and offering recommendations on general subjects raised during sessions.
Federal draft laws must first pass through the FNC for recommendations when members can amend the laws to suit the needs of citizens. The draft laws are then forwarded to the Cabinet for consideration and approval.
Since 2006, half of the members have been elected by UAE citizens to serve four-year terms and the other half are appointed by the Ruler’s Courts of the seven emirates.
In the 2015 elections, 78 of the 252 candidates were women. Women also represented 48 per cent of all voters and 67 per cent of the voters were under the age of 40.