Abu Dhabi/Dubai The UAE Government is working to expand the mandate of the Federal National Council, according to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who cast a symbolic vote during his tour to the polling station at the Dubai World Trade Centre yesterday.
"The benefit of this experience is that the Emirati youth are participating in building the nation. The most important thing that we are looking for today is to expand the FNC authority," he said.
"My gratitude to Shaikh Khalifa, who drafted a clear methodology that we can use to empower Emiratis... and set out the path for democracy in the UAE," Shaikh Mohammad said.
In a very short time, he said, the UAE would be at a par with other developed countries. "What we have achieved is great… We will keep up this sustainable development," Shaikh Mohammad said.
He saluted the women of the country for their active participation in the election. "I have said earlier that UAE women are the spirit of the place. But today I'm saying that women are the soul of the nation."
He said Emiratis were genuine in their endavour to enhance participation and empowerment to build on the nation's great history.
"Emiratis are known to be very supportive of their leaders. We encourage our youth to develop the nation and participate in the success of the UAE," Shaikh Mohammad said.
Smiling candidates and election officials greeted voters who were helped through the entire process.
An atmosphere of enthusiasm and optimism pervaded polling centres and the thrill was apparent on faces of both voters and candidates.
In Abu Dhabi and in the rest of the 12 centres across the UAE, voter turnout was higher than expected.
A glitch in the computer system led to some delay initially, but people waited patiently till the system was restored in affected centres.
There was a significant presence of women, comparable to the number of men, at all 13 centres in the UAE, with many of them stopping by to greet acquaintances as they walked up to polling stations to exercise their franchise.
Candidates also made their presence felt at the polling stations. With big smiles drawn across their faces, some of them could be spotted huddled in groups along with their supporters or family members.
Candidates were also making every effort to make an impression on voters with their passing glances as they headed to polling booths.
Candidate Otaiba Al Otaiba gave the thumbs up as he left the election hall at Adnec (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre) with a broad smile. "I will be on the top of the list," he said.
Alia Al Matroushi, daughter of candidate Huda Al Matroushi, said she could not vote as her name was not listed in the electoral college. She said she had "showed up to support her mother".
Dr Hamad Rashid Hamad Al Daheri, a candidate from Al Ain, said participating in the vote was important for him.
"Winning or losing does have significance but I really don't care for it," he said, noting that he was happy that so many pople came out to support him.
"I am pleased and enjoying the affection of fellow countrymen," he said.