129,000 to vote in UAE council election
Abu Dhabi, July 12, 2011
The United Arab Emirates will increase the number of citizens eligible to vote for a national advisory council to 129,000 from a previously planned 80,000, the state news agency announced.
This means about 12 percent of the estimated one million UAE citizens will be able to vote in September's election for the Federal National Council (FNC), the UAE's top advisory body, a huge increase from the 7,000 Emiratis who voted for half the members of the previous council. The other half were appointed.
The agency said the increase is part of a drive towards greater democratisation in the world's third biggest oil exporter.
The UAE's total population is estimated at 4.5 million, a large majority of them expatriates.
"The Emirates, through this big step towards expanding the number of members of electoral committees, confirms that it is moving towards promoting political participation," Minister of State Anwar Mohammed Gargash said in a statement.
Critics say the council has little real power and is largely an advisory group.
Gargash said in an interview last month that the plan to increase the number of people eligible to vote was prompted by the turmoil sweeping the Arab world. - Reuters