Abu Dhabi: Many Emiratis were upbeat at what they called "a great leap" the UAE's leadership has taken to extend political rights to nearly 25 per cent of the citizens eligible to vote.

They said they feel they are very close to free direct elections, hoping the next parliamentary term in 2015 will see every citizen practising his or her full political right.

Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, professor of political science at the UAE University, said the new Emirati dream is to make the UAE "the best democracy on earth".

Better shape

His name did not appear on the electoral rolls, Dr Abdullah said with almost 25 per cent of citizens eligible by age going to vote in this year's elections, the UAE will certainly be in better shape.

"The national elections with a large pool of citizens will contribute to the building of a successful parliamentary experiment, paving the way to free, direct elections and enhancing the democratic experience in the country," said Ahmad Bin Shabib Al Daheri, former first deputy speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC).

The electoral rolls, including more than 129,000, Emiratis eligible to vote in and run for the Federal National Council (FNC) elections, scheduled for September 24, were published on Monday.

The rolls comprise 47,444 voters and possible candidates from Abu Dhabi, 37,514 from Dubai, 13,937 from Sharjah, 3,920 from Ajman, 3,285 from Umm Al Quwain, 16,850 from Ras Al Khaimah, and 6,324 from Fujairah.


Ecstatic over finding his name on the electoral rolls for the second time, Hamad Obaid Khamis Mattar Al Ka'abi, 30, said this year's elections will be a major step towards implementing the reform plan outlined by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

In an address to the nation marking the end of the polling process in 2006, Shaikh Khalifa said while the Federal National Council (FNC) had in the past helped the government in achieving legislation and addressing many issues, its role would be expanded in the coming era "to enrich and develop our parliamentary experiment."

Shaikh Khalifa urged the government "to provide the appropriate atmosphere to allow the FNC to exercise its role as a bridge between citizens and the state institutions and its executive and administrative leaders."

The right to elect members of the legislature was extended to almost 20 times those enfranchised in 2006 elections.

Young and old

As many as 129,274 citizens will cast their vote to elect 20 members of the 40-seat FNC, while the other half will be appointed by the nation's Rulers.

Sultan Saqr Al Suwaidi, a former representative from Dubai, expressed hope the upcoming parliamentary experiment will involve the development of the election system, which will in turn lead to direct general elections.

The electoral rolls were mostly made up of the young generation, with 74 per cent younger than 39 years of age. As many as 31,452 citizens or the biggest segment on the rolls were of the age group 25-29 years.

Eight citizens, including five from Dubai, two from Ras Al Khaimah and one from Ajman, who appeared on the rolls, will complete 21 years on the September 24, the election day.

A citizen from Ras Al Khaimah, Khamis Humaid Salem Al Ali, 108 years, is the most senior citizen to appear on the rolls.

Khalifa Abdullah Bin Howaiden, a former representative of the council, said he and most of the former members of the FNC were not on the electoral rolls.

"It seems the leadership is injecting young blood into the council," he said.

Greater powers

Bin Howaiden suggested introducing constitutional changes for greater powers for the FNC and election law to "accommodate the evolution of the UAE as a democratic state."

Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs and Chairman of the National Election Committee (NEC), said the significant increase in the number of Electoral College members in 2011 underlines the commitment of the UAE and its leadership to further promoting political participation in the UAE.

Registration of nominations will be undertaken at 13-14 polling stations across the country, compared to seven in 2006.

Dr Gargash said the process of citizen's participation in the UAE politics is still in its nascent stages and will continue to develop gradually.

However, Dr Abdullah said the question remains: "Why should the remaining 75 per cent of citizens be prevented from practicing their political right? My answer is there is no reason whatsoever to deprive them from this right," Dr Abdullah said.

Some 46 per cent of citizens on the rolls are women, almost three times the numbers in 2006 elections.

Voters must have an Emirates identity card to take part in the upcoming elections. E-voting will be used to ensure a safe, effective and convenient election process, said Dr Ali Al Khoury, director-general of the Emirates Identity Authority and member of NEC.