As many as 337,738 Emiratis are casting their votes today (October 5) to elect half of the members of the Federal National Council (FNC) - an advisory council of the United Arab Emirates that represents the general public.
Unlike the parliamentary democracy system, the UAE's 40-member FNC is a part of the country's governing structure, which includes the Supreme Council, President, Cabinet and Judiciary.
Twenty members of the council are elected by the citizens of the Gulf state, while the remaining twenty are nominated by the rulers of each emirate. As many as 495 candidates are contesting for the 20 seats, which are assigned to seven emirates in proportion to their population, according to media reports. The FNC, seen as a step towards democracy, instils democratic spirit among Emiratis.
Similar to Majlis Ash'shura of neighbouring Oman, the FNC makes valuable suggestions to the cabinet with the help of its specialised in-house committees while drafting laws, which include financial bills, international treaties and agreements. The specialised panels conduct an in-depth study on the pros and cons of newly proposed rules and regulations.
Ever since the council was formed about 13 years ago, the majority of the recommendations of the council has been taken into consideration while finalising rules and regulations. Further, the council members often question cabinet ministers on issues that concern the general public, besides debating on various issues.
The preliminary results of the fourth election, which follows previous elections held in 2006, 2011 and 2015, will be announced by the National Elections Committee – the agency that oversees the entire election process – after the elections get over at 8 pm today.
The elections panel had conducted early polling in nine stations between October 1 and 3 for those who can not cast their votes on the election day, including aged people and those who prefer to cast their votes in advance. The UAE's public sector organisations have allowed a break for their employees to cast their votes for electing members of the FNC, which has a tenure of four years.
Candidates, who are using different platforms to garner support, are highlighting various electoral issues, including the high cost of living, unemployment, fight against radicalism and terrorism and focus on drug abuse among youths. However, personal rapport of candidates matters a lot in getting support in a Gulf state like the UAE. The election campaign started almost a month ago on September 8.
As per the rules, candidates can submit their appeal regarding disputes regarding various issues on October 6 and 7 and a decision will be taken by the panel on these appeals within three days.