UAE, Bahrain hold elections, protests

Emirates try to introduce representation, voters complain council purely advisory; Bahrain holds elections to fill parliamentary vacancies.

By REUTERS
September 24, 2011 12:34
2 minute read.
Emirati voters head to the polls.

Arab voters 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Abdullah Salem)

DUBAI - Polls opened on Saturday for the second election in the United Arab Emirates, where a fraction of the population will vote for an advisory council, as the Gulf Arab state tries to forge closer links between the rulers and the people.

Half of the seats in the 40-seat Federal National Council (FNC) are being contested by 468 candidates seeking the votes of the 129,000-strong eligible electorate -- just 12 percent of Emirati nationals in the world's No. 3 oil exporter.

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"I voted for people that I know, for those who advocate for the rights of the citizens," said Ahmed al-Janahi, 54, a marine biologist at the Ministry of Environment.

The vote is an attempt by the rulers of the seven emirates to gradually introduce representation. The 20 other members of the council are directly appointed and the body only has advisory powers.

Former FNC members, however, have called on the UAE government to grant the assembly more powers and have the entire council elected.

In a partial concession, the government increased the number of citizens entitled to vote to 129,000, nearly 20 times more than those who voted in the country's first elections in 2006. It has not made clear how the voters or candidates were chosen.


Bahrain holds vote to fill seats vacated during unrest

Bahrainis voted on Saturday to fill parliamentary seats that were vacated by opposition members unhappy over government efforts to address the grievances of Shi'ite Muslims in the Sunni-ruled monarchy.

Shi'ites, who form the majority community in the Gulf state, took to the streets in February to demand more representation and access to jobs and benefits.

At least 30 people were killed, hundreds wounded and more than 1,000 detained in a crackdown on the protesters in which troops were brought in from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Wefaq opposition vacated 18 of the 20 seats in parliament and was boycotting Saturday's vote to fill them, saying that subsequent government efforts at reconciliation have not addressed the Shi'ites' grievances.

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