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Thu 18 Aug 2011 04:13 PM

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Hundreds register for UAE's second-ever election

Emiratis sign up to run for half the seats in the 40-member Federal National Council

Hundreds register for UAE's second-ever election
Half of the 40 seats in UAEs Federal National Council are open for nominations

A few hundred Emiratis have registered to run in a
parliamentary election in the United Arab Emirates, the government said on
Thursday, fewer than expected when it loosened restrictions on running to try
to ease demands for more democracy.

UAE rulers, nervous that protests which swept across the
Arab world earlier this year may spread to their country, have raised the pool
of voters and candidates from less than 1 percent of a population of nearly 1
million to about 20 percent.

The government of the UAE, one of the world's biggest oil
exporters and an ally of the United States, said 477 people had registered so
far to run for half the seats in the 40 member Federal National Council.

The other half of the seats will be chosen by the ruling
dynasties of each of the seven emirates, which came together in 1971 when
colonial power Britain withdrew.

"We hope that everyone supports this step, which is
important in enhancing political participation and empowering the Federal
National Council," Anwar Gargash, minister of state for FNC affairs, said
in a statement.

"We expect hectic activity following the completion of
candidates' registrations," said the minister, who opened an account on
social media site Twitter this week.

Analysts said the numbers so far showed that interest in the
election to the Council, which only advises UAE rulers rather than instituting
legislation, was minimal. It is only the second time the UAE has held any kind
of election to the Council.

"We can definitely say that this number is relatively
small and less than expected," said politics professor Abdulkhaleq
Abdulla, noting that more candidates ran in the election in 2006. "I don't
know the reason ... perhaps the result of the last election was not
satisfactory."

The government says Emiratis need time to understand
democracy before the electoral system can be developed. Many Emiratis say they
want full democracy now.

"I was motivated when the electorate was
expanded," said Mohammed Hadi Omeiri, a biology professor from Dubai who
went to register his name this week. "It's a positive step that paves the
way for making FNC elections open to all citizens."

"I was also motivated by a desire to contribute to
strengthening the role of the FNC, especially its legislative and supervisory
role," he said.

Businessman Ayoub al-Zarouni said the FNC's powers needed to
be expanded.

"We hope its mandate will not only be advisory and I
hope its decisions will be more effective."

The government has set a limit of AED2m ($545,000) to spend
on campaigns from September 4 and the funds must come from personal savings or
UAE citizen donations, said Dubai elections committee chief Ahmed bin Humaidan.

Emiratis make up around 20 percent of the UAE's population,
which includes many Asians who have lived in the country most or all of their
lives.

MPN 8 years ago

Why do a democracy? When a country has been running very successfully for the last 40 years on monarchy / hierarchy, why move to democracy?

The many complaints of the public (local and expats) are about daily life - rising expenses and increasing fines, etc.. These need to be reviewed. As long as the ruling government pays heed to these complaints / suggestions - democratic government is not required.

Every nation running a democratic government has struggled with corruption during the first decade - some countries still do after many decades of the same. Why allow for further curroption why it can be avoided.