The road to election modernization in the GCC

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election modernization

Cushioned by plentiful hydrocarbon reserves and healthy government budgets, and populations who largely prefer stability to chaotic political change, the GCC has been able to avoid instability reaching its own territory. In a region not known historically for its focus on democracy, a democratization process that was once slow in the making seems to be taking faster steps toward democratization – after the Arab Spring – accelerated in part by leveraging election modernization technology.

The United Arab Emirates leading the way in election modernization with eVoting (both poll-site and remote)
In 2011, the UAE National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) began an unprecedented electoral modernization process towards full automated elections with the deployment of on-site and remote electronic solutions with plans to fully develop an online voting system for the next 2015 national elections.

The UAE uses an advanced technology system covering the full election process including biometric ID, card readers, electronic poll books and electronic voting. The combination of innovative and secure technology also enable transparency in the process with final results being reported on election day during the Legislative (2011) elections and certified results being published within 3 days.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia all eyes on how innovative technology will help accelerate the democratic process
As one of the 10 elections to watch in 2015, not only due to who gets to vote and run in the upcoming May 2015 municipal elections (women were granted the right to vote and run as candidates) but also the leverage on innovative election modernization technology.

As recently announced by the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Saudi Arabia has embarked in a project to enable the use of modern technology in the electoral process. This much needed update will help Saudi Arabia raise the bar in the use of technology along similar lines to other countries in the GCC.

Of importance as well was the announcement to reach out to all media and to respond to any inquiries or questions about the electoral process and the new technology being deployed.

Kuwait looking to leverage success and experience from across the region
The latest Legislative elections in Kuwait 2013 did not see key changes in the use of ICT to modernize its processes. Though, several polls showed that the majority in Kuwait would prefer more modern technology to support the election process. There was no use of open source systems by EMB in previous Kuwaiti elections (mainly 2013 election).

As part of the country´s strategy to apply innovative technology in public administration, in May 2013 the supreme election commission in Kuwait reviewed various electronic mechanisms for direct and indirect electronic voting. Insights to leveraging the experience and use of proprietary e-voting systems in the United Arab Emirates is helping influence the adoption of this technology not only in Kuwait, but is influencing  all the Arab Gulf countries.

Oman leverages technology for real-time election results
In addition to the use of electronic voting in the 2013 Sultanate Municipal Council Election, Oman enabled the live publication of election results via the Municipal Council website enabling voters to check the results through a direct link to In addition, the Sultanate of Oman TV also provided live transmission of the election process and through a YouTube link.

Bahrain poll-site electronic voting put on hold

Despite the Bahrain Legislation and Legal Opinion Commission initially considerationto implement voting kiosks under a pilot program during the 2014 November’s elections, plans were put on hold until 2018 due to lack of time and technical concerns.

Qatar novelties in voter registration for the May 2015 election
Following large-scale shifting of Qatari families – many due to demolitions to give way to development projects  – the supervisory committee for Central Municipal Council (CMC) election highlighted the need to enable new voter list after the wards were re-demarcated recently following large-scale shifts of Qatari citizens.

The supervisory committee for Central Municipal Council (CMC) election, which will be held in May 2015, began registering voters early in January 2015. Registration was done via services provided by the Ministry of Interior or by visiting designated venues in the 29 CMC constituencies.