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Majlis Watani Itihadi (Federal National Council)

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Parliament name (generic / translated) Majlis Watani Itihadi / Federal National Council
Structure of parliament Unicameral
Dates of election / renewal (from/to) 24 September 2011
Purpose of elections Elections were held for one half of the seats (20) in Federal National Council.
In September 2011, the country held parliamentary elections for the second time. Members were indirectly elected by an enlarged Electoral College. At stake were half of the 40 seats in the Federal National Council (FNC).

In the previous elections held in December 2006, only a tiny fraction of the country's population was eligible to vote. Of the approximately 825,000 UAE nationals, only 6,689 persons (0.8 % of the population), including 1,189 women, were selected by the country's rulers to be members of the Electoral College. It should be noted that nearly 80 per cent of the country's estimated 4.2 million inhabitants are foreigners. Since there are no political parties in the UAE, all candidates ran as independents. The legislature that convened in February 2007 comprised a total of nine women: one elected and eight appointed by the rulers of the constituent emirates.

Following the constitutional amendments of December 2008, the term of the legislature was extended from two to four years. The then members thus served until February 2011 (see note). In March 2010, several FNC members argued that an electoral law should be enacted before their term ended so as to broaden political participation. However, that did not happen before the term of the outgoing members expired on 8 February 2011.

On 16 February, President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued a decree amending the method used to select representatives of the FNC. The decree provided that the number of members of the Electoral College in each Emirate should be 300 times greater than the number of seats elected in the given Emirate. This tripled the size of the Electoral College.

The impact of the Arab Spring, which saw the long-serving Presidents of Tunisia and Egypt toppled in January and February 2011 respectively, was limited in the UAE. On 8 March, some 130 activists - including academics and journalists - started an online petition calling for direct elections for all members of the FNC by all UAE nationals as well as constitutional changes to give the FNC full legislative and oversight powers. The petition was submitted to President Khalifa and the Federal Supreme Council, the country's highest governing body made up of the UAE's seven rulers. In April, five of the petitioners were arrested and charged with opposing the government and insulting the country's leadership. Their trial began on 2 October.

On 16 March, the second parliamentary elections were officially called for 24 September. The Electoral College published on 11 July was significantly larger than previously expected. It comprised 129,274 members, nearly 20 times more than in 2006. The new Electoral College includes about 12 per cent of UAE nationals. Approximately 35 per cent of the members were under 30 years of age and 46 per cent were women.

In all, 468 candidates, including 85 women, stood for the elections. Many candidates pledged to provide better education and health care and more housing for young UAE nationals. They also promised to strengthen the UAE identity and culture. Several candidates used social media networks such as Facebook to present their plans.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, stated that his top priority was to expand the FNC's authority.

Voting took place without any major incident. In all, 27.75 per cent of the 129,274 members of the Electoral College cast their ballot.

As in the 2006 elections, only one woman was elected. 27 unsuccessful candidates disputed the election results for various reasons. Some insisted that the election results be invalidated due to the low turnout, while others claimed that several voters had used other people's identity cards. The National Election Committee explained that voters' fingerprints had been taken to prevent such fraudulent practices. It also stated that the Constitution did not require a minimum turnout to validate the elections. On 28 September, it rejected all appeals and confirmed the preliminary results.

On 15 November, the newly elected members were sworn in alongside the 20 appointed members. Mr. Mohammad Ahmad Al Mur was elected as its new Speaker.

Note on the 2008 constitutional amendments:
The amendments modifying three articles of the Constitution were approved by the Federal Supreme Council. In addition to revisions to Article 72, which extended the FNC's term, Article 78 was modified so that the FNC session begins in the third week of October every year. This amendment sought to coincide the parliamentary session with the Cabinet's work with a view to enhancing cooperation between the FNC and the government. Article 91 as amended obliges the government to notify the FNC of any international agreements and conventions it officially signs, thus allowing the FNC to debate them prior to ratification.
Voter turnout
Round no 124 September 2011
Number of registered electors
Blank or invalid ballot papers
Valid votes
35'877 (27.75%)

Distribution of seats according to sex
Percent of women
Distribution of seats according to age
Distribution of seats according to profession
Note on the distribution of seats according to political group:
Not applicable: there are no political parties.

Note on the distribution of seats according to sex:
One woman was elected while six others were appointed by the rulers of the constituent states.

Federal National Council (06.10.2011, 16.11.2011)

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