Campaign billboard for Salem al-Shaali
Reuters Photo by Mahmoud Habboush
The United Arab Emirates is gearing up for the second elections in its 40-year history, but officials and candidates are finding it tough to answer a commonly asked question: why can’t everyone vote?
The UAE government in July hand-picked 129,000 voters to elect 20 of the 40 members of the Federal National Council (FNC), an advisory assembly with very limited parliamentary powers.
The pool represents 12 per cent of Emirati nationals in the Arabian Peninsula nation who will vote on September 24.
The rest of the council will be directly appointed by the Gulf Arab state, which is governed by several ruling families that transfer power from father to son, or brother to brother…
The wealthy Gulf oil nation has been virtually untouched by the Arab Spring, witnessing from afar the toppling of autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and any hint of dissent has been swiftly stamped out.
This week’s elections are part of stated efforts by the seven emirate member states to gradually introduce representation and educate voters and candidates in its methods in an orderly way… Uh, OK.
The UAE government held seminars in the past few weeks for candidates about the rules of campaigning while at least one non-profit organization held a training course on “how to run a successful campaign.”
But many candidates still appear to lack a basic understanding of the FNC’s constitutional powers, which are virtually nil…Salem al-Shaali, a Dubai candidate, is campaigning on a platform to hand more power to the FNC.
He pledges, in an ad in Al Bayan, a Dubai newspaper, to “help FNC members obtain the right tools to be effective in the decision-making process.”
There have been growing demands by former FNC members and intellectuals to give the assembly real powers, introduce universal suffrage and fully elect the council, created in 1972…
Less than 7,000 people, or less than 1 percent of the population, were allowed to vote in the UAE’s first elections for the council in 2006.
I guess proceeding in the direction of democracy and participation of the electorate is always a positive. Still, there should be some effort for the voting franchise to move a little faster than, say, molasses on a cold day in Alaska.
RTFA for more history, anecdotal coverage from Reuters.