Abu Dhabi: The UAE was blessed with such a great leader, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who made the shura a lifestyle, a foundation for decision-making, and a basic system for building the state and its civilisation, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, Speaker of the Federal National Council, said on Monday.
“The late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, was a visionary leader with a tremendous ability to understand, negotiate and consult in order to reach a consensus on any subject,” Dr Amal said.
“Shaikh Zayed had all the talents and skills of leadership. His style of consultation and wisdom inspired everyone to share his dreams and ambitions to build a country that is among the most advanced countries in the world, Dr Al Qubaisi told a forum themed “Shura in the Thought of Shaikh Zayed” held in Abu Dhabi.
As the UAE marks its 47th anniversary, Dr Amal said, the UAE’s parliamentary experience is proceeding on the right track in keeping with the empowerment programme launched by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2005.
The move, she said, was adopted with full national will, to deepen political participation, citing elections in 2006, 2011 and 2015 and expanding the electoral pool to elect half of the members of the House.
The FNC Speaker pledged that the House will continue to assume its role in supporting comprehensive stability and sustainable development in all areas.
Mohammad Al Za’abi, a former member of the House, said the Shaikh Zayed once appealed to the Federal National Council to bring him and the government to account if the House found any failure in carrying out their duties.
That was only three years after the House was set up in 1972.
“My brother members, in these historical, critical moments as your council comes together, the masses of citizens on this good earth are looking at you confident that with God’s help will contribute in achieving their hopes in pride and strength, progress and well-being,” Al Za’abi, who was a member of the House between 2007 and 2011, quoted Shaikh Zayed as telling the member of the FNC in its first ever session in 1972.
Al Za’abi said Shaikh Zayed was setting up a future parliamentary democracy. Forty-seven years ago, on February 12, 1972, Shaikh Zayed, along with rulers of the emirates, made history by inaugurating the House to fulfil the constitutional requirements.
The 2015 parliamentary elections — the third in the nation’s history — saw, for the first time, a single-vote system, a judge to lead the panel that heard appeals, overseas ballots, and a wider awareness campaign to improve turnout.
Rowaya Saif Al Samahi, a former member of the council, said the parliamentary process started as early as 2006, when the first electoral pool of about 7,000 Emiratis was selected to vote and women became members of the House.
“In the second round of FNC elections in 2011, about 130,000 Emiratis were granted voting rights, an increase of about 18-fold. The last election in 2015, however, was a big boost to the parliamentary elections process in the region with more than 224,000 eligible Emirati voters electing 20 representatives of the 40-member House.”
Dr Saeed Mohammad Al Gafli, Assistant Undersecretary for Federal National Council Affairs, said long before the UAE was formed, shura was the common form of governance.
“After the federation, shura became one of the five pillars of the constitution. This came to be known as the 40-member Federal National Council, all of whom were appointed by rulers of the seven emirates and allowing full representation,” he said.
Dr Al Gafli added this reflected Shaikh Zayed and the founding fathers’ deep faith in shura. “When the FNC convened for the first time in 1972, Shaikh Zayed said it marked an important time in the history of the country, as the council would play an important role in the field of development and in building a bright future.”
Ahmad Bin Sultan Al Jaber, a member for the council in the first session, said Shaikh Zayed also encouraged FNC members to speak freely and express the needs of citizens honestly.
The forum also addressedt a pivotal moment for the FNC in 2005 when the President Shaikh Khalifa launched a new road map for political reform to strengthen public participation and allow further freedom of expression.
“We will do our best so that our council will become more powerful and effective and closer to domestic issues and concerns of citizens, with the true values of participation and a deliberative approach being well established through a gradual process of development,” the President said.
After that, constitutional amendments were made to allow half of the 40-member council to be elected by an electoral college, and women were allowed to become members. Meeting sessions were extended from two to four years, and required to be no fewer than seven months in a year. The Ministry of FNC Affairs was also established.
The purpose of the changes, Shaikh Khalifa said, was to “promote a culture of political participation among citizens and create a mood of democracy, respecting the rights of others and allowing them the freedom of expression that the constitution of the UAE has guaranteed”.