Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi First, the coalition of candidates for board seats in the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI) promising a 50 per cent membership fee reduction, swept the second round of elections held on Monday.
The group's nominees won all 15 possible seats, including two for expat businessmen Yousef Abdul Kader and Kaseem Alom. Fatima Al Jaber became the first woman elected to the Adcci board with nearly 4,900 votes, the most of any of the UAE nationals in the coalition.
"This is a great accomplishment for all of us," said Khalfan Al Ka'abi, prominent businessman and unofficial leader of Abu Dhabi First. "We look forward to implementing all of our promises which were made based on sound study of the chamber's capabilities and the needs of the business community."
Votes from polling stations in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Western Region totaled 12,191, close to the figure attracted two weeks ago with the first round of voting, said Adcci Director General Mohammad Al Hameli.
Voter turnout in the first round did not meet the 25 per cent threshold, or about 18,000 votes, required for certification, forcing the run-off round.
The Abu Dhabi government will appoint six more members for four-year terms beginning January.
Abu Dhabi First was by far the most organised of the three alliances created weeks before the first round of elections. The group sponsored newspaper, radio and billboard advertisements and hired tens of highly-visible campaign workers to hand out fliers and encourage voters to vote for its candidates.
Having swept the election, the bloc now faces pressure to implement a 50 per cent membership fee cut and simultaneously increase its presence in the emirate, a promise the chamber's current president said is "unrealistic."
"Anything requires a board decision, so people cannot speculate," Salah Al Shamsi told Gulf News on Monday before results were announced. "And practically, you cannot [implement] this kind of reduction because the chamber has a lot of programs that it has to continue."
Al Shamsi, who has served a four-year term and is not seeking re-election when his term expires at the end of the month, said priority should be "to help support the business sector and that requires a lot of expenditures."
Following her victory, Al Jaber declined to comment on how the board plans to make up for lost revenue after reducing membership fees.
"This is something that will be studied carefully be the board once all seats are filled and our strategy will be announced through the executive committee," she said.
Adcci's membership has grown to more than 71,000 members at the end of the third quarter compared with 56,000 when it held its first board election in 2005. Membership is mandatory for all Abu Dhabi-registered businesses.