UAE expands electoral colleges

More political participation spearheaded by UAE President

DUBAI - The United Arab Emirates has expanded the number of electoral colleges which elect half of the members of the 40-strong Federal National Council, a local daily reported on Monday.
"The pool of voters for this year's FNC election will be 50,000 greater than previously expected and almost 20 times as great as during the council's inaugural election in 2006," The National reported.
"A total of 129,274 Emiratis will be eligible to vote, the National Election Committee announced," it added of the September 24 election.
Members of electoral colleges appointed by the emirates' rulers are entitled to elect half of the members of the 40-strong council. The remainder are named by the rulers themselves.
The increase underlines "the commitment of the UAE and its leadership to further promoting political participation," the daily quoted minister of state for foreign affairs and FNC affairs Anwar Mohammad Gargash as saying.
The UAE held indirect elections in 2006 for the first time.
The government described the polls as the start of a process that would eventually see all Emiratis electing half the members of an expanded FNC with greater powers.
Emirati intellectuals and activists, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world, petitioned the president on March 9 to introduce direct elections and vest parliament with legislative power.
The petition was signed by more than 100 Emiratis including academics, journalists and rights activists.
The UAE, a federation of seven Gulf emirates led by oil-rich Abu Dhabi, has not seen any popular protests calling for reform similar to those that have swept other Arab countries, including Gulf states Bahrain and Oman.