The Federal National Council elections 2015, which took place on Saturday, October 3, 2015, represents the 4th stage of the Political Empowerment Programme, which included innovative initiatives that helped increase popular participation in elections from 35,000 to more than 79,000 male and female voters. These elections enhance the parliamentary experience and political empowerment in the UAE, as directed by the country’s leadership, to strengthen citizens’ participation in public affairs.
This becomes all the more evident by the gradual increase in the size of the electorate between the FNC elections in 2006 and the last round in 2015. In 2006, 6,595 male and female citizens were given the right to vote. This number increased in 2011 to 135,308 citizens, then to 224,281 in the 2015 elections – an increase of up to 66%. This clearly reflects the UAE leadership’s commitment to implement a holistic process for political empowerment.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) took a number of measures that guaranteed the participation of citizens both inside and outside the UAE. Starting with the introduction of modern systems that allow voters across the UAE to easily and seamlessly participate in the elections, using data from citizens’ ID cards. The Commission also implemented an early voting mechanism that afford voters more flexibility to cast their votes at their convenience, especially those with conditions that prevent them from performing their electoral duties.
With that in mind, the committee opened certain polling stations to members of the electoral bodies before election day on October 3, 2015. The select early-voting polling centres determined by the National Elections Committee in each emirate, and were opened for a set period of time.
Early voting took place in each of the emirates according to a timetable set by the NEC for each emirate over the course of 3 days (September 27-29, 2015). Polling stations were to remain open 8 full hours per day – from 10:00am to 6:00pm. Meanwhile, on election day (October 3, 2015), voting took place over 12 hours, from 8:00am to 8:00pm.
As for members of electoral bodies abroad, the Commission identified 94 electoral centres at the headquarters of diplomatic missions where citizens could cast their ballots.
These advanced measures that sought to guarantee the participation of citizens in the FNC elections the leadership’s conviction that it is imperative for citizens to have a voice and a role in the electoral process; citizens are considered partners in selecting their representatives and expressing their demands in the Council.
The FNC elections 2015 witnessed a remarkable increase in voter turnout, which coincided with the expansion of the electoral base to 224,281 voters. The number of voters who participated in the elections reached 79,157 – 35.29% of the electorate, compared with the 27% turnout for the 2011 FNC elections.
Representatives from UAE-based public-interest organisations and the various candidates’ agents supervised the elections to ensure good governance and transparency.
The NEC believes civil society has a critical to play in advancing political development in the UAE, which is why the committee agreed to allow public-interest organisations to take part in the elections process, especially after these organisations exhibited great interest in the elections and requested to be allowed to monitor the voting.
As such, representatives were allowed to enter any electoral centre in the UAE, as long as they complied with the rules established by the NEC.
Two such organisations submitted formal requests to monitor the FNC elections 2015, namely:
• Emirates Association for Lawyers and Legal: The Association supervised the 2015 FNC elections with 10 representatives.
• Emirates Association for Human Rights (EAHR): The Association supervised the 2015 FNC elections with 13 representatives