Eman, a New York-based Egyptian, tweeted this morning: ‘Elections and UAE in the same sentence.’
For the UAE, today’s election was a significant milestone on its journey towards full democracy. Election day (24 September 2011) involved 6,500 Emiratis voting to elect 20 representatives to the Federal National Council who will be joined by the 20 members who are appointed by the Rulers of the UAE.
The journey toward democracy is being led by the President of the UAE and the Rulers of all the emirates.
His Highness, Sheikh Hamad Bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Fujairah said today:
“It is now the people’s duty to exercise their political rights responsibly.”
“It is a day to be proud in every sense of the phrase. On the federation day, we proudly mark our union. Today, we celebrate democracy and political freedom.”
Commenting on the journey toward democracy, a Fujairah government representative said that voting by the people is something that is relatively new so this electoral process is very much an education for us.
Voting is not available to all adult Emirati citizens but this year 6,000 people in Fujairah are members of the Electoral College. There is a massive electoral machinery and lots of voters to cast their choices for only two Fujairah candidates who are elected by the people.
Fujairah voters arrived as early as 7.30 this morning but they had to wait for thirty minutes to vote at the official starting time of 8am. By 9am it was declared that 80 Fujairah people had voted.
By mid-afternoon Fujairah organizers were reporting with pleasure ‘a better than expected turnout’ and declaring that this could be attributable in no small part to their awareness meetings and the thorough preparation that they had done prior to election day.
Earlier this week a journalist for Al Jazeera-English was eager to base her UAE election story in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah as she had heard of the vigor and visibility of the campaigns in the Northern Emirates, with promotional boards lining the roads and candidates erecting majlis tents in which to get their message across. In contrast the journalist said that driving through Dubai this week, there were few visible signs to indicate that an election was being staged.
Gender and Youth
Of the twenty-one candidates standing in Fujairah, three are female. These three received special coverage, especially about the importance of the electorate and women in particular having a female voice at the FNC. There was also some discussion about the pros and cons of female photos appearing on their campaign boards.
One of the female candidates in Fujairah was also the youngest of all the UAE candidates so this was another feature that characterized the election process in the North-Eastern emirate.
Today, voting was done by way of electronic voting machine after all voters received a two-minute training session. For some voters the training session wasn’t comprehensive enough with one man angry because he had wasted his vote through making an incorrect procedure.
Fujairah candidates visited the polling booths today and were ‘sitting on the sidelines’ enjoying the voting process. Some school pupils arrived at the polling centre to present a congratulatory rose to every Fujairah candidate.
The initial results are due to be announced this evening (Saturday 24 September 2011). Candidates may choose to use their right of appeal but the final results will be announced on Wednesday 28 September 2011.
Early voters in Fujairah, Video, The National, 24 September 2011.
Rym Ghazal, Fujairah: Afternoon Slowdown but Rosy for Candidates, The National, 24 September 2011.
Patrick Michael, Nation Goes to the Polls Today, KT, 23 September 2011.
FNC Election: Voter Turnout Higher than Expected, Gulf News, 24 September 2011. PICTURES AND LIVE COVERAGE.
Further newspaper reports, videos and photos from the 2011 Election Day in Fujairah are posted on the Fujairah in Focus Facebook Page.
Image: Rashid Salem, Fujairah’s first voter casts his vote at the polling station at the Fujairah exhibition Centre. (Photo courtesy of Pawan Singh and The National)
Update: While the turnout during the day appeared positive and high in Fujairah the final tally did not paint so buoyant a picture. Nationally the turnout was 27.8% and in Fujairah 34.3%. Commentators were putting the low turnout down to the novelty factor and saying that this whole process is an education. There will no doubt be more in depth enquiries to learn the real reason for the low turnout.