14 December, 2006

Elections, the Emirates Way

The announcement of the names of the nominees for the FNC elections in December has raised questions and created a feeling of bitterness and mistrust. In the past, such reactions did not come to the fore because selecting and ignoring FNC members was not the concern of the ordinary people. But the advertisement for the upcoming elections, and the accompanying media coverage, has been a negative factor. It has increased ambiguities instead of clarifying the issues. It succeeded in motivating people to participate in the elections, which everyone thought they were somehow a part of, till they realized that it was the privilege of only 6,689 people, representing 0.08 percent of the total UAE citizens. The remaining citizens have been offered seats reserved for spectators, without knowing why they have been excluded.

Instead of establishing a political consciousness that reflects the content of Article 25 of Chapter III of the UAE Constitution -- which addresses public rights and duties and stipulates that "all individuals are equal before the law, and there is no distinction between the citizens of the Federation on the basis of origin, creed, or social position" -- distinction has been made and inequality consolidated in a manner that has made the coming electoral process something of a Spartan Paradigm.
This from Dr Ebtisam Al-Kitbi, Assistant professor of political science, UAE University.

Reuters finds analysts who are more positive:
Christian Koch, Director of International Studies at the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai, welcomed the "step by step" development of political institutions in the UAE.

"The government of the UAE enjoys a high level of legitimacy among its population and doesn't see an urgent need to take broad steps towards overall democracy," said Koch.
. . .
There are no general elections in the UAE, but citizens may express their concerns directly to their leaders through traditional consultative mechanisms, such as the open majlis, or council.

The decision to elect 50 per cent of the members of the FNC was announced by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan in December 2005.

This decision was just the first phase of a three-stage process of transforming the political system in the UAE. Sheikh Khalifa also created a 12-member National Electoral Committee in August this year to oversee the electoral process.

In addition, Sheikh Khalifa outlined two other stages to be introduced in 2007 and beyond.

Stage two is the expansion of the FNC to include a greater number of members to reflect the growth of the country's population. This stage would also include a re-evaluation of the role of the FNC with a view to strengthening its role.

Once the FNC has been expanded and empowered, stage three of the political reform process would allow all nationals in the country to vote for half the FNC's candidates.
The Reuters article puts this gradual approach in the context of the "rise of Islamists across the Gulf":

Some analysts set the tentative first steps towards greater democracy in the UAE, a country in which there are no democratically elected institutions or political parties, against the rise of Islamists across the Gulf.

"The leaders may feel that for now this is the only right way to proceed with elections," said analyst al-Hassan. "Muslim extremists, whether in Iraq or Iran or al-Qaeda elements in the Gulf, are now very influential in the region and there are fears that they would dominate such councils if moderates were not guaranteed a place."
Here's an article on some of the women running for office, giving good examples of the kind of feistiness I've observed in Emirati women.


Robert said...

These gentlemen ought to realize the effectiveness of utilizing online platforms for their ventures (or votes).... having a personal webpage with a professional email id (non-hotmail) could in fact give it the strong background people would want to assured of before voting their preferences in.

Anonymous said...

Election or a private club?

Move along, nothing to see here. Its the same s*** different day.

On the bright side, its the Emaratis who are being deprived of their right to vote the same way,'Temporary Workers', lose certain rights when they go there.

Welcome the the club of the disenfranchised and the world of make belive democracy. :D

All your bases are belong to [them]

Anonymous said...

^^ What does that suppose to mean?

Anonymous said...

anonymous @ Dec. 15 0100

Thats a variation of,"All your base are belong to us".

Anonymous said...

For the latest election coverage click here

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