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Down but not out—high hopes despite low UAE voter turnout

Down but not out—high hopes despite low UAE voter turnout

How interested are Emiratis on a parliamentary future? Precious de Leon hopes the small yet hopeful voter turnout proves the need for faster national integration of the election process.

September 25, 2011 3:00 by



Though I did not go to the election halls across the country, I could imagine they were relatively packed. After all 1,000 people crammed into a voting arena can be easily perceived as a massive turnout.

By Thursday afternoon, after having followed the elections from the beginning, my voter turnout forecast was 25 percent. It was a conservative number and I was hoping my prediction was wrong and that a lot more people out of the 133,000 would actually show up to do their part in the election process.

But reports show only slightly more numbers than I predicted, Reuters reports voter turnout at 28 percent.

Would this number have been higher if all eligible UAE nationals were allowed to vote? I believe the answer to this is yes, if not only a little.

Would it have been a higher voter turnout if the Federal National Council (FNC) had more than an advisory remit? Yes, absolutely.

And in some ways, the Rulers of the UAE recognise this. Here’s a Gulf News video with Vice President and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammad that alludes to the need for more involvement from the citizens and looking back at how discussions were done years ago.

THE RIGHT DIRECTION

The second election is definitely a step in the right direction, make no mistake about it. But I’d say that there is nothing like jumping right into real deal, getting people involved in creating real change for citizens. And I’m not alone in this, former FNC members have reportedly called on the UAE government to grant the assembly more powers and have the entire council elected.

Unsurprisingly, clans and tribes played strongly during the elections. There’s nothing to replace familiarity and trust to win over votes. As for female winners, I had hoped that there would be a better ratio of women taking seats in the FNC but the women’s share will have to be held solely by Shiekha al-Ari of Umm al-Quwain. Here’s the full list of winners.

MEDIA CONTENTION

While it’s a responsibility for the rulers to inject a parliamentary body—gradual or otherwise—into the community, the media has an undeniable role to play in informing citizens as well. And while The National reported positive results hand in hand with hard facts on low voter turnout and technical delays on voting day, Gulf News seems to have created a template for mood reporting rather than talking about figures and real sentiment among the organizers, winners and even losers.

Kipp has even heard that a candidate that lost in one of the smaller emirates demanded a recount late on Saturday, claiming that technical delays may have hampered his win. Where were reports like this? Browsing through the string of coverage in GN, in fact, will make you realise that if you take one article, and replace the current emirate with another emirate, the mood and tone of the story is almost identical: people were happy and excited to vote. That’s it.

No reporting of how, for example, 16,850 were selected to vote in Ras Al Khaimah and only 5,085 showed up. How can citizens get galvanised and engaged if the coverage seems too, well, fluffy?

The world is interested. So why aren’t we?



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