Voting for this year’s Federal National Council (FNC) elections opened across all seven emirates on Wednesday, with several people arriving early to cast their ballots.
In some places, including the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) — one of the emirate’s three polling stations where Emiratis can vote in person — it was all smiles and jubilation. Some citizens came in wheelchairs to exercise their right to vote despite all difficulties.
Taking place across the country for three days — ending on Saturday — the elections will see UAE citizens select their representatives for the parliamentary body.
“This is the first time we are implementing a hybrid elections model,” said Essa Mohammed Al Mutaiwei, head of the electoral body in Dubai. “Citizens can either vote at any of the three centers in Dubai or online. We are hoping that by making the process easier, more people will vote and make their voices heard.”
A total of 309 candidates are vying for 20 FNC seats allocated for this year’s polls. The federal authority consists of 40 seats and FNC members usually serve four-year terms.
Candidate Muna Khalifa Ahmed Hammad was at the centre early on Wednesday. “I am happy to be here,” she said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “I encourage all my Emirati brothers and sisters to exercise their right to vote and participate in the political process of building a bright future for the UAE.”
She also commended the electoral body for the smooth and easy voting process. “Not only for voters, but they also made the process really easy for candidates,” she said.
The well-organised elections started at 9am at the DWTC. Several volunteers stood at checkpoints to guide voters on how to go about the process.
Once a voter walks in, they go through a face scanning system to ascertain their eligibility to vote. When the scanning system is complete, they can go up to any of the machines and cast their ballots.
The election process — which will end on Saturday, October 7 — will see 20 winners take their seats in parliament, where they will be debating and passing bills; discussing matters of public interest; and lobby for certain issues. It also gives members the right to question ministers about their portfolios.
Since its inception, the FNC has held 493 sessions, during which members have debated seven constitutional amendments, passed 533 bills, and discussed 282 issues of public interest.
This year, there are 118 candidates in Abu Dhabi; 57 in Dubai; 50 in Sharjah; 21 in Ajman; 34 in Ras Al Khaimah; 14 in Umm Al Quwain; and 15 in Fujairah. They are competing for the four seats each for Abu Dhabi and Dubai; three each for Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah; and two each for Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Fujairah.
The FNC is one of the five federal authorities stipulated in the UAE Constitution, convening its first session on February 12, 1972.
Initially, all the FNC members were appointed by Rulers of the seven emirates. It was in 2006 that the UAE’s second President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, declared that half of the FNC would be elected, allowing Emiratis to run for office and vote.