Unwanted calls irk electorate

Voters have said they are being pressured into supporting candidates through unsolicited phone calls and on social media.

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ABU DHABI // Voters have said they are being pressured into supporting candidates through unsolicited phone calls and on social media.

Fatema Al Kaabi, 57, said she was surprised to find herself being added to several candidates’ WhatsApp electioneering groups. “I rarely use my phone, so I didn’t notice. But when I did I was shocked, because I saw pictures of men and videos of them speaking, but I had no idea who they were,” she said.

“When I showed these to my daughter she explained that they were looking to become parliament members. But I still didn’t understand my role, so I left the groups.”

She said such actions actually discouraged her.

Another voter, Zahra, 25, said an unknown woman representing one of the candidates had phoned her at about 11 at night.

“She didn’t tell me who she was, or where she got my number from. She just said she was calling on behalf of a candidate, but didn’t even explain his campaign to me. She said he was in favour of women’s rights and I should vote for him,” she said.

“I honestly thought it was a prank. She could have called in the morning, or a more appropriate time for such a serious cause.”

The caller then added Zahra to a public WhatsApp group, an action that infuriated all the group members. “People were insulting [the anonymous caller], asking how could she just randomly add us. I just said OK, I will vote to keep her away from me. But I didn’t believe a candidate with that name existed until I checked and found out it was actually true,” she said.

Eman Al Shamsi, another voter, said: “It is not right to be pushy and pressure us to give them our vote. It is wrong and unreliable, and they don’t even give us a glimpse of their campaign.”

She said candidates’ photos were visible all over the country, but there was “no clear idea of what their personalities and goals were”. Ms Al Shamsi said her Instagram had been filled with notifications urging her to vote for certain candidates.

Fatima Al Khyeli, 22, said she received a phone call from a female candidate asking her to vote for her. “I don’t know her, and didn’t know her even after she introduced herself, and then she just hung up. My brothers also receive such calls,” she said.

“We will vote based on what we think is right, not because they called.”

aalkhoori@thenational.ae