Only 2 Out of 10 Registered Voters Have Voted: Here’s Why

The public’s election sentiments have never been as vigorous as they have been in this year’s polls. Social media feeds have been flooded with comments, bashing candidates as well as their supporters, and hailing some bets. Every slip and every glitch are all immortalized in the cyber jungle as memes and viral videos.

The government was hopeful that all the attention would be translated into actual votes. Unfortunately in the expat community in the UAE, this has not been the case.

Five days before the elections end on May 9, almost 151,000 registered overseas voters (OVs) have not voted yet.

Embassy and Consulate officials reported that as of May 2, only 22.29 percent or 43,300 of the UAE’s 194,185 total voters have cast their ballots.

Dubai and the Northern Emirates have gathered 26,300 votes or 21.51 percent of the 122,185 total OVs, while Abu Dhabi has recorded 17,000 or 23.61 percent of the 72,000 total.

Seeking to understand the community sentiments, The Filipino Times asked around to find out why the thousands of registered voters have not hit the polling centers yet.

  1. Busy at work

Majority of those asked, or 69 percent, cited work as the primary reason. Myron Da Costa, Regina Estana, Alvin Pancito and Clarence Cristobal said they couldn’t find the time to vote considering their work schedules.

“Time flies too fast here in the UAE, especially when you have to work on a lot of things,” said Cristobal. “I did plan to vote but then it gets pushed aside every time. I hope I can make it this coming holiday.”

The same goes for Regina Estana, who vowed to finally make her vote count this coming weekend.

  1. Too far
    Distance was also a concern to most, with 14 percent saying the polling places are too far from their workplace or from their homes.

It was a challenge that was acknowledged even by Philippine Ambassador ConstancioVingno Jr.

Ambassador Vingno attributed the low turnout to the fact that OVs in the capital city are dispersed in the outlying towns like Ruwais, Musaffa and Al Ain, which are more than an hour away by car or bus from the Embassy.

“Unlike Hong Kong and Singapore, which are geographically small and where it only takes a short bus ride to the voting centers, Abu Dhabi is big and the registered voters are dispersed far away from where the embassy is,” he said, adding that the financial considerations in covering travel and food expenses could also be a factor.

Unlike in Dubai where the Consulate was able to set up centers in various places outside its offices to make the polls accessible, the Embassy had not been permitted to hold field voting. It had instead joined hands with the community in providing needed transport.

Civic groups like Filcom Al Ain have been transporting OVs in Al Ain to and from the Embassy at a daily rate. They have even sent out three buses on April 29 to bring in more, according to Third Secretary and Vice Consul Rowena Pangilinan-Daquipil. The Philippine Institute for Civil Engineers (PICE) will be sending two buses to Ruwais for the same purpose on Friday, May 6.

  1. Undecided
    Many Filipinos are not yet sure whom to vote for as the circus hits fever pitch in the recent weeks. Eleven percent of the people that TFT had asked are still making up their minds.

“Too many things are happening back home. Too many issues are emerging and my original bet is now letting me down after several issues. I am still thinking whether I’d stick with my choice or consider another one,” said Claire Prado.

This year’s elections could have been the tightest in terms of the competition. The presidential race in particular remained open to a lot of possibilities up to less than a week before Election Day. Anything could still happen, there was still no clear winner. Mudslinging was still rampant, with hard-hitting issues still being hurled at the candidates every day. The most recent of which would be Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s bank account allegedly used for hundred billions’ worth of “ill-gotten wealth”. Banters have been exchanged among several parties: between vice presidential candidate Antonio Trillanes and Duterte, and then between Duterte and presidential bet Mar Roxas. Grace Poe lost her lead in the survey; cancer-stricken Miriam Defensor-Santiago appeared weaker by the day; and VP Jejomar Binay has been lying low after the barrage of corruption issues against him has somehow died down.

Who is it gonna be? At this point, it still is too hard to tell.

  1. Last-minute, buzzer beater mentality

Interestingly, there were Filipinos who talked about the energy and the adrenaline brought about by getting to the last minute. Four percent said it is a “better” experience to vote with the Philippines on May 9.

“I have been used to waking up early to vote back home, I wanted to do it here as well so I am setting some time aside on May 9 so I could come to the Embassy,” said Fred Catindig of Abu Dhabi.

“When you vote on the last day, there’s this feeling that you could have been one of the people who could have highly contributed to the swing vote. It’s more exciting,” said Gwen Viernes.

  1. Still in doubt

Some Filipinos, on the other hand, remained skeptical and apathetic. Two percent said they did not think their vote would still matter.

“It’s like nothing has been changing through the years. Would this election really make a difference?” asked Lovely dela Rosa, a caretaker in Dubai.

Maria Anna Lagman, an administrative assistant, said she registered but is still wary whether her vote would really count considering incidents of rigging in past elections, a concern shared by Chris Flores, a sales executive.



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