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UAE activists demand direct elections

DUBAI, Mar 9 – A group of Emirati intellectuals and activists on Wednesday petitioned the president of the Gulf state to introduce direct elections and vest the parliament with legislative powers.

The petition, posted online, cites "rapid regional and international developments that necessitate improving national participation," in calling for the direct election of all members of the Federal National Council (FNC), which serves only as an advisory body.

It also calls for "the amendment of constitutional articles to power the Federal National Council with full legislative and regulatory powers."

The petition, which comes amid sweeping uprisings in several Arab countries demanding regime changes, was signed by 133 UAE nationals, including academics, journalists and rights activists.

Petitioners lamented that the process of efforts to widen political participation over 39 years, since the United Arab Emirates federation was formed, "have not followed the constitution."

They wrote that the constitution stipulates a "process towards a comprehensive democratic parliamentary system."

The UAE, which groups seven emirates including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, had indirect elections in 2006 for the first time, where members of electoral colleges appointed by the emirates\’ rulers were entitled to vote half the members of 40-strong council.

The remainder were named by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan.

The government had described the 2006 polls as the start of a process that would eventually see all Emiratis electing half of the members of an expanded FNC with greater powers.

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