Most of them are too young to drive, but election campaigns and voting are around the corner for the country’s youth.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) and Federal National Council (FNC) announced on Friday the creation of a 54-member youth parliament comprised of primary and secondary school pupils across the country’s seven emirates, with all the pomp and ceremony resident in any other parliamentary election process in the world.
MoE students’ counselling director Kenez Al Abduli told state news agency Wam the ministry would oversee an election process at the start of the school year and announce the results within the first month. The legislative term is to last one year and commence two weeks after the elections, going into recess one month after the school year, she said.
The country will follow the likes of Britain, Scotland and even Europe, which already have such youth or school parliaments established.
Acting MoE Undersecretary Ali Mehad Al Suwaidi, who inked the agreement with FNC Secretary-General Dr Mohammed Al Mazrouie, said the school parliament initiative aimed to promote political participation by allowing students to express their opinions on issues regarding education and the community.
“The school parliament will provide a platform for exchanging views, fostering values of loyalty to the homeland, promoting community culture and values, encouraging explicit expression of points of view, sharpening skills of thinking, understanding and respect of the other’s stances, enriching students’ Arabic language and speech skills and nurturing the culture of dialogue among students themselves on one hand and between them and officials on the other.”
The students would go through debate and dispute-resolution training, he said.
Dr Al Mazrouie said the FNC would set election campaign, voting and candidate rules, and also chart school parliamentary session and deliberation bylaws.
There would be committees on education; culture, media and communications; environment and sustainable development, youth and sports; scientific research;
law; political affairs and international relations; and health and housing. While the full sessions would be held at the FNC venue in Abu Dhabi, committees would be able to hold their sessions in emirates outside of Abu Dhabi, Dr Al Mazrouie said.
The young MP would have the right to demand a public debate and an urgent statement on a specific subject, he said.
The UK’s youth parliament, which was formed in 2000, has 600 members made up of youths aged between 11 and 18, voted on by more than 500,000 other students each year.
The European Parliament has had 70 sessions, attracting an average 300 youths from 30 countries around Europe.