Dubai: Voters chosen by the rulers of the
United Arab Emirates cast their ballots on Saturday in only the
second-ever polls to elect half of the members of the advisory
Federal National Council.
Men in traditional Emirati white gowns and women wearing
black abaya cloaks trickled into a large polling centre at a
conventions complex in Dubai.
They chose their preferred candidates using electronic
terminals in semi-private booths, before depositing the
printed out votes in transparent boxes.
Polling opened at 0800 AM (0930 IST) and will close at
7:00 pm. Some 129,000 Emirati citizens are eligible to elect
20 representatives out of 450 candidates, including some 85
women, in 13 voting centres across the Gulf state whose
leadership has promised gradual political participation.
The size of the electorate has been significantly boosted
after it included only 6,600 voters in 2006 for the first-ever
elections since the FNC`s formation in 1972, a year after
independence from Britain.
Candidates in the FNC polls must come from the lists of
voters named by the respective rulers of each of the seven
emirates comprising the UAE federation.
The emirates` rulers appoint the remainder of FNC
The council has no legislative powers and acts merely as
an advisory board to the Federal Supreme Council, the
country`s highest governing body, made up of the emirates`
The FNC cannot overturn or block laws or decrees issued
and ratified by the Supreme Council.
"The role of the council now is good. They discuss
problems and voice the complaints of the people," said student
Tareq Mohammed, 21, who was voting for the first time, arguing
that vesting the FNC with more powers was not needed.
"I voted for those close to my area and that I feel can
do something for us, and those who have programmes for the
youth," he added.
Police agent Huda Sweidan said she trusted the rulers in
their choice for appointed FNC members, appearing undisturbed
by having the right to elect only half of the representatives
of her emirate.
"The rulers know whom to choose," she said after voting.
Voters also appeared to accept not yet having universal
suffrage, believing in the government`s phased-out approach to
widening political participation.
"I believe in the gradual process," said government
employee Ahmed Ismail, 29, after casting his ballot.