Prime Minister hails a ‘blissful occasion’ as new FNC convenes
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid celebrated a “blissful occasion” for the nation on Thursday as he opened the 17th term of the Federal National Council after last month’s elections.
The Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai welcomed his “brothers and sisters” to the council that, for the first time, has an equal number of male and female members.
President Sheikh Khalifa issued a decree in December ordering that women make up 50 per cent of the 40-member council.
Sheikh Mohammed arrived at FNC headquarters in Abu Dhabi shortly before noon and strode into the building on a red carpet as a military band played. Rulers from across the Emirates were in attendance and the ceremony began with the recitation of a verse from the Quran on the unity and brotherhood that binds people together after a dispute.
The recitation was followed by Sheikh Mohammed’s speech.
“My brothers and sisters, members of the FNC, by God’s blessing and guidance we inaugurate your council,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “And we ask God for it to be a blissful occasion for the people and the country.” His words were followed by a reading of the federal decree, issued by Sheikh Khalifa, which ushered in the new session.
Veteran FNC member Ali Jassim then stepped up to the podium to present the council’s speech.
“Allow me, Your Highness, to hail your efforts to reach a modern government that is considered a model for government,” said Mr Jassim, who represents Umm Al Quwain.
“And allow me to congratulate the members of the council for serving as representatives
of the people, and their hopes to grow and develop.
“I would also like to congratulate the women members of the council for the trust they were given by our wise leaders, to make the UAE a leader in empowering women in parliament.”
Saqr bin Ghobash, the former minister of labour, was announced as the new speaker of the house.
“I hope to meet your expectations,” he told the council.
“And for the first time, half of the council is filled by women.
“The daughters of the Emirates will prove themselves as they always have, and their performance will add value to the council.”
Dherar Al Falasi, 55, a new member representing Dubai, said the move to ensure women have an equal say on the council was a significant one.
“No other parliament has done it before, so we are pioneering and we will show the world how this will add value to the council,” he said.
He said council members new and old were enthusiastic about a new chapter in the FNC’s history.
“I could see the passion in their eyes,” Mr Al Falasi said. “Everybody wants to do something, and this time the combination is unique because each member is specialised in a certain field.
“As a political analyst, I think we will have an excellent four years to come starting from day one. Everybody is ready to make it a unique term.”
The FNC advises the government on matters of national importance. It can pass, amend and reject federal laws and discuss international treaties, and is also a forum for members to raise Emiratis’ concerns.
It was established in 1971 and voting was introduced in 2006.
Members hold office for four years.
A record number of Emiratis cast their votes on election day last month.
Calls for greater equality, better health care in remote parts of the country and an acceleration of the Emiratisation drive were just a few of the issues candidates campaigned on.
While the number of people who voted was up compared with the 2015 election, from 79,157 to 117,592, the percentage turnout was slightly down.
This was the result of a substantial increase in the number of registered voters for the 2019 elections, up from 224,279 to 337,738 this year.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, delivers a speech at the opening of the 17th Federal National Council in Abu Dhabi on Thursday