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Published By Khaleej Times
The Federal National Council (FNC) is the consultative council, the parliamentary body of the UAE. It was formed as per the provisions of the UAE’s Constitution. The main functions of the FNC as per Articles 89 to 92 include: Passing, amending or rejecting federal draft laws including financial bills, examining the Annual General Budget draft law and the draft law of the final accounts, discussing international treaties and agreements, discussing general subjects pertaining to the affairs of the federation and offering recommendations. The draft law or bill passed by the FNC becomes a law only after approval by the President.
The FNC consists of 40 members and the number of seats assigned to each emirate is proportionate to its population with Abu Dhabi and Dubai having eight seats, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah having six seats. Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah have four seats each.
As per a directive by the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Emirati women must occupy 50 per cent of the FNC seats.
Article 72 of the UAE Constitution states that an FNC member shall hold office for four years from the date of its first meeting.
History of the council
The FNC was established as per the provisional constitution adopted by the UAE Government in 1971. In this stage, all its 40 members were appointed by the Rulers of the seven emirates.
In 2006, Sheikh Khalifa approved the Supreme Council Resolution No. 4 of 2006, which revised the method of selecting the representatives of the emirates by combining the process of election and appointment. Thus, the Ruler’s Court in each of the seven emirates would appoint half of the members while the electoral bodies representing the citizens would elect the other half.
Requirements/ eligibility for membership
An FNC member must be a citizen of an emirate of the UAE and must be residing permanently in the emirate, which they represent in the FNC.
When selected, he/she must not be less than 25 years of age.
The candidate must have civil capacity, good conduct, good reputation and must not have previously been convicted of a dishonourable offence unless he has been rehabilitated in accordance with the law.
He/she must have adequate reading and writing knowledge. A member of the FNC cannot at the same time hold a public office in the UAE including ministerial portfolios.
Rules for voters
As per the official election guide for 2019, voters need to adhere to following rules while exercising their right to vote:
1-The family book (Khulasat Al Qaid) is the benchmark which indicates the emirate to which the UAE national belongs.
2-Membership to the electoral college will change upon each new election term.
3-Voting is a personal right, which must be exercised only by the voter. Voter cannot authorise this right to anyone else.
4-The voter must present Emirates ID to verify his/her identity before voting.
5-Each voter is entitled to cast only one vote for only one candidate from among the candidates of the emirate he/she belongs to under the ‘Single Vote’ system.
How the FNC works
According to Article 78 of the Constitution, the FNC shall hold an annual ordinary session lasting not less than seven months. The council sits from the third week of October, thus reducing the length of the parliamentary recess to coincide with the Cabinet’s work and allowing further cooperation between the government and the FNC. It may be called into extraordinary session whenever the need arises.
The meetings of the FNC are open to the public but may be held in camera if so requested by the government’s representative, the President of the Council or one-third of its members.
Resolutions are taken by an absolute majority of the votes of members present, except in cases where a special majority has been prescribed. In case the votes are equally divided, the side on which the Speaker of the session supports prevails.
In 2006, the UAE established the electoral college system. Under this system, every emirate has its own electoral college consisting of members equal to at least 300 times the number of seats allotted to it.
The members of an emirate’s electoral college are chosen by the Ruler of that emirate. The Ruler also decides the demographics and other terms and conditions of the voters. For example, upon his discretion, he may allocate a percentage of voters to be females, seniors or adults. Every member of the electoral college has the right to apply for candidacy of the FNC subject to compliance with eligibility rules. Candidates have the right to run for elections in the emirate they belong to.
Members of the electoral college have the right to vote for a candidate of his/her choice from the emirate he/she belongs to. And 20 candidates with the highest votes become members of the FNC.
The National Election Committee (NEC) is in charge of planning and supervising the election process. It was formed in 2006 by a resolution made by Sheikh Khalifa. The committee issues the regulatory rules and determine the date of the elections.
Members can vote from both inside and outside the UAE. The polling stations are determined by the NEC, both within and outside the country.
Inside the UAE, the voter may cast his vote through the electronic voting system at the allocated polling stations throughout the UAE. Eligible voters in the upcoming FNC elections will have to cast their vote at 39 polling stations across the country, nine of which are for people voting ahead of October 5.
Illiterate voters and people with special needs can cast a verbal note at the polling centre in each emirate.
Voting outside the UAE is done manually through ballot papers, at the polling stations set at UAE embassies and consulates.
The campaign for this year’s election started on September 8. Some 495 Emiratis are competing for 20 FNC seats, with the remaining 20 members appointed by the Rulers of the emirates.
Over 337,738 Emiratis will vote during the polls, marking a 50.58 per cent increase from 224,281 electoral college members in 2015.
The main election will happen on October 5 and the results of the preliminary count will be announced on the same day.
Candidates raise social issues to run electoral campaign
1-Be part of change
Ameena Al Mazrouei, candidate from Abu Dhabi
The 36-year-old Emirati woman, currently working as a specialist for corporate social responsibility at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department is among the 133 candidates from Abu Dhabi.
“I meet various social groups in my community every day. My campaign slogan is ‘Be part of change,” said Al Mazrouei.
The mother of four, who has a diploma in media practice and a bachelors degree in history and art, says she tells people to participate in the change by electing people based on what they promise to do for them in the country’s parliament.
“We have hospitals with nice buildings and advanced equipment. But my major concern is the workforce there. I would like to see many Emiratis working in the healthcare sector and I want to advocate for this in the house.
“Also I would like to see an education system that all children are comfortable with. Changes made to the education curriculum should be gradual.” Having working for a private bank immediately after her graduation, and then joining a TV station where she worked one ‘Studio One’ programme which handles issues and complaints from Emiratis before joining the Abu Dhabi courts, Al Mazrouei claims that she has broad knowledge on finance and knows problems affecting Emiratis.
“Working hours for mothers in the private sector should be reduced to six from eight to enable the women get time to look after their small children,” said Al Mazrouei, adding that widows should also be given more support to educate their orphaned children.
2-Youngsters are a priority
Dr Taher Musabah Al Marar, candidate from Abu Dhabi
The 56-year-old Emirati has raised his concerns about the issue of high unemployment among young Emirati graduates.
“I am using all acceptable platforms, social media and the mainstream media to reach out to voters. It’s tough but exciting but I am hopeful I will make it to the FNC,” said Al Marar, adding that he wants to be elected to the country’s parliament so that he could raise the need for fight against terrorism and radicalism through education and control of drug abuse among youngsters through awareness campaigns.
Al Marar has a bachelors degree in Human Resources Managemnet from California State University and a masters and PhD from a UK university.
“Many young Emiratis are unemployed despite having qualifications required in the job market. And this really bothers me a lot,” said Al Marar.
“I want to go to the FNC to advocate for stricter regulations to make the private sector give priority to Emirati jobseekers.
“Government should also set an attractive minimum wage for UAE nationals working in the private sector to encourage youngsters take on jobs in private firms as many are sometimes reluctant to join the sector because of the low pay and few benefits, compared to their peers working for government.”
3-Contesting for the third time
Hamad Al Rahoumi, FNC candiate from Dubai
Al Rahoumi wants to take his experience back to the house to advocate for more issues affecting Emiratis.
“I have been in the FNC for eight years and I have presented lots of issues to the House,” said Al Rahoomi, adding that with his broad knowledge and FNC experience, he could serve the nation and people in a better way.
“People in my community still want me to represent them in the house. I want to continue participating in the formation of new important laws and also present vital issues affecting the community,” he said.
He said the number of Emiratis in school jobs is still very low. “I want to ensure that the Ministry of Education recruits more UAE nationals to teach in government schools with a good pay,” said Al Rahoumi.
“Also, the pension for Emiratis who have retired from work is not enough to sustain them and their families. I would like to push for an increase in the pension package.”
Al Rahoumi, who served as the head of the House’s Emiratisation Committee, said he also wants to see government forcing private and government firms, to give vacant positions to Emiratis who have the required qualifications before considering expats.