The first-ever historic elections to the Sharjah Consultative Council (SCC) got off to an exciting start on Thursday with citizens turning up in droves with great enthusiasm to cast their votes at the Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club polling centre in Sharjah city and at dedicated polling centres across the emirate.
Huge crowds were seen at the Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club and other polling centres across nine Electoral College constituencies in the emirate from morning on day one of the four-day long first-of-its-kind electoral exercise, with many of them arriving well before 8am.
Citizens in Sharjah have the opportunity to elect representatives of their choice for half of the 42-member council, making themselves part of the decision-making process and governance in the emirate. A total of 195 candidates, including 43 women, are competing for seats spread across Kalba, Khorfakkan, Dhaid, Dibba Al Hisn, Bataeh, Maliha, Hamriya, and Maddam in an election that is being held under the slogan of ‘Take Part in Decision Making,’ following the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs and Chairman of the National Election Committee, who visited the Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club to observe the polling on the day one, hailed the Sharjah polls as a positive and historic development.
Noting the popular response to the first direct elections to the SCC, Dr Anwar Gargash emphasised that the democratic experience is part of the vision of the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, unveiled through the Tamkeen (Empowerment) programme to empower the people and involve them in the decision-making process.
Dr Gargash praised Sharjah and the Election Committee for the smooth conduct of the first SCC elections and the organised popular participation in the entire exercise. The Minister, who is also Chairman of the National Election Committee, talked about the keenness of His Highness the Sharjah Ruler to encourage and ensure public participation in the governance and decision-making process of the emirate and thus in its development.
Pointing out to the outstanding democratic experience of the UAE, Dr Gargash said it is a successful role model for the whole of Arab World in terms of addressing the aspirations of the people and national development. Arguing that the ongoing elections reflect the maturity of the UAE’s democratic experiment, Dr Gargash said that the direct elections to the Sharjah Council offer a great opportunity to young people to demonstrate their abilities and have their say in the affairs and development of the Emirate.
The elections to the highest advisory and decision-making body in the emirate are being seen as a historic first and a celebration of democracy.
Voters are entitled to choose from candidates in the electoral zone they belong to. Up to 24,952 people above the age of 21, including 13,794 men and 11,158 women, from across the emirate have registered as voters and are set to cast their ballots at any of the nine polling stations over the next four days, between 8am and 8pm.
Speaking earlier Mansour Mohammad Nassar, Chairman of the Supreme Committee for SCC Elections, hailed the "remarkable national experience", expressing his satisfaction with the enthusiastic response to the new phase of democracy in the country’s history. "The sons and daughters of the nation have answered the call of the leadership to be involved in the decision-making process and have an effective say in Sharjah’s affairs and development. This is a day that His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah has been waiting for, and it makes us all proud," he said.
"Sharjah is witnessing an important period and a new phase of democracy, a democracy that was always present and reflected in our society and our country, as well as in our identity, of which we are proud," he emphasised.
Dr Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Head of the Media Committee of the SCC Elections, also lauded the enthusiastic popular response to the first polls for the Sharjah body, describing it as an important stepping stone to the emirate’s democratic experience. The Election Committee has made the arrangement to start the counting of votes on Sunday, January 31, which is also the last day of voting, at Al Qasimia University.
The counting process will be telecast live on various television channels and media outlets of Sharjah Media Corporation. The live transmission will continue throughout the night until the end of the counting and declaration of results, he added. "This is a celebration of democracy which the smiling Emirate of Sharjah truly deserves. This crowning moment has arrived after the journey of 16 long years and after a lot of hard work."
Meanwhile, Tariq Al Naqbi, Director of Sharjah Media Centre (SMC), the media and communication arm of the Sharjah Government, whose team of national employees cast their votes on Thursday, said that this is a moment of great national pride for all Emiratis in general and the emirate of Sharjah in particular. Al Naqbi said that it was a thrilling and incredibly gratifying experience to be part of Sharjah’s first and historic elections.
Al Naqbi said: "This is yet another feather in the cap of Sharjah, the Cultural Capital of the Arab and Islamic world, and the UAE and an important milestone in the journey of a young nation. We thank His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and the UAE leadership for offering this opportunity. I believe this is just the first step of an exciting journey for the emirate and a more promising future and opportunities are in store for Sharjah."
The Sharjah Government entities and departments, which, led by their heads, sent their employees in groups to vote on the day one of the poll, included Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, Sharjah International Airport, Sharjah Department of Economic Development, Sharjah Municipality, Sharjah Police, Directorate of Human Resources, Sharjah Media Corporation, Department of Culture and Information, Social Services Department, Supreme Council for Family Affairs, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA), Department of Information and eGovernment, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Education Council and Beeah.