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Emiratis arrive to cast their vote for Federal National Council elections during early voting at Sharjah Chess Club in Sharjah on Wednesday 04 October 2023. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan

Dubai: Emiratis have shared the joy of casting their votes online for the very first time in the history of the UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC) election which is being held in a hybrid mode this time.

UAE citizens who spoke to Gulf News on Thursday said they celebrated the historic moment with pride and excitement as the online voting system is not only easy and secure but also saves time and money, all the while protecting the environment. Some said the digital revolution heralded the dawn of a new era in the electoral process in the country, where citizens are empowered like never before.

The online voting, which started at 9am on Wednesday, will continue round-the-clock till 8pm on Saturday.

Voting at polling centres were open from 9am to 6pm on Wednesday and Thursday while it will continue from 8am to 8pm on Saturday. There will be 24 main polling centres across the country on Saturday.

According to the National Elections Committee (NEC), a total of 309 candidates including 128 women are contesting this election. The candidates are vying for 20 FNC seats allocated for this year’s polls. The federal authority consists of 40 seats and FNC members usually serve four-year terms.

Mohamed Al Mulla

A senior government official, Mohamed Al Mulla could not hide his happiness and excitement about voting in between his meetings. “You know I voted in between my meetings!” he said excitedly.

“I was very busy and when I got a break in between my meetings I thought okay lemme try to vote and I managed to do it quickly. You don’t know how happy I am!”

Al Mulla, director of International Postal Compliance and Inspection at Emirates Post, said he was happy about not having to spend time driving to a polling centre to vote.

“I had never heard about anyone voting online before. Some of my colleagues had taken leave to go to their home countries to vote. This is an amazing facility that empowers Emirati voters to cast their votes from anywhere in the world,” he said, noting that the process was smooth and secure.

“I have never missed to cast my vote. To vote is your right and it is important to vote for the right candidate. When this flexible online facility is available, we can vote even when we are travelling. Nobody will miss the chance to vote,” he added.

Ready for future

Ahmed Abdulrahim Al Zarouni

Ahmed Abdulrahim Al Zarouni, a technical analyst and author, said the online voting system showed “how the UAE is ready for the future.”

“This is one of a kind election utilising technology. It improves productivity, saves time and reduces carbon emissions. On top of that, it has a fair and secure channel while maintaining the traditional ways of voting through electronic voting machines in the kiosks at the polling centres,” he said.

Revealing that several members of his family cast their votes online this time, Al Zarouni said the system was “super advanced with facial recognition.”

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No scope for fraud

“It is smooth and highly secure with no scope for fraud. It also asks you a couple of times to verify the candidate you want to vote for to void any mistake. It saves you money, and petrol and avoids queuing up at polling centres,” said Al Zarouni.

One of his relatives and a young businessman from Sharjah, Abdelrahman Al Zarooni said he “enjoyed voting online for the first time.”

Abdelrahman Al Zarooni

One of his relatives and a young businessman from Sharjah, Abdelrahman Al Zarooni said he “enjoyed voting online for the first time.”

“I registered my details using the UAE Pass and my face was captured for facial recognition. Then I had to choose my emirate, which is Sharjah and then choose the candidate I wanted to vote for. It only took about a minute or so.”

Faisal Al Midfa

Faisal Al Midfa, who is also a businessman from Sharjah, said he was happy to find how easy the online voting system was. “I always used to go to the polling centre for voting. Now, I will do it only online. I am so proud that my country is now offering this facility for its citizens,” he said.