Abu Dhabi: Emirati men and women turned up in large numbers at the polling centres to cast their votes on the second day of early voting in the capital, pledging support to candidates who would work for social development in the country.

Ensuring inclusive development and enhanced facilities for women topped the criteria for selecting candidates this election.

Speaking to Gulf News at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, government employee Mariam Al Mansoori said: “Elections are indicators on how people want to develop their community and the country as whole. Being an Emirati woman, I exercised my right of franchise to contribute to the development of the country.”

“First I researched the candidates’ backgrounds. Only if a candidate is highly qualified, he or she can do something good for the society and contribute to the development of the country,” Al Mansoori, who works for the Abu Dhabi government, said.

Businessperson Afra Al Muhairi said, “This election is very special to us as the government has allocated 50 per cent seats for women. That would further empower women in the country.”

She said the UAE’s founding father paved the way for women to take part in the nation-building process. “He always supported women’s affairs and accorded them high respect in all fields. I am happy with the excellent arrangements that have been made here so we could smoothly vote,” Al Muhairi said.

Salma Al Shamsi, 35, who works for Mubadala, said women have challenging responsibilities like raising children and doing chores at home while pursuing their careers.

“So strategies must be drafted to factor this and reduce their working hours in the office,” said Salma, adding, “It is great that 50 per cent of FNC members will be female this time.”

Saeed Al Shamsi, 32, who works for Abu Dhabi Police, said, “Today I cast my vote for a person who always stands up for social causes. I pray he will win.”

In Sharjah, the past two days have seen a steady stream of voters.

Government employee Ali Al Hawawi 26, said, “Elections are a new experience for me. Voting is a national duty and all Emaratis must go to the poll station to vote. It’s like celebrating the National Day.”

Also voting for the first time, 23-year-old Fatima Khalifa Al Kitbi said, “Every candidate has a vision or message to get across. The candidate I voted for had a message I personally agreed with.”

Despite their old age and difficulty to commute, many elderly Emiratis also voted in Sharjah.

Ismail Abdul Raheem A Harmoudi, 63, voted for someone who he believes ‘will put his country first’.

“I believe he will do a good job if he wins,” he said.

Dr Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Nuaimi, the UAE’s Minister of Infrastructure Development, was also among those who cast his votes in Sharjah.

“I voted for the UAE, not for a family or a tribe,” he noted.