The United Arab Emirates
is a Federation of seven emirates, each with its own ruler. Government works at three levels – federal, emirate and municipal. Since its formation in 1971, the Federation has brought political stability and security.The UAE’s political system is a unique mix of the old and new.
Cultural traditions such as open majlis, in which tribesmen voice their opinions directly to their ruler, coexist alongside a modern and always evolving administrative system.
The Federal Government has responsibility for the following: foreign affairs, security and defence; nationality and immigration issues; education; public health; currency; postal, telephone and other communications services; air-traffic control and licensing of aircraft; labour relations; banking; delimitation of international waters and the extradition of criminals.
In May 1996, the provisional constitution was made permanent, and Abu Dhabi was designated as the Federation’s capital.
Federal Supreme Council
The rulers of each emirate are members of the Federal Supreme Council, which is the top policy-making body in the UAE. The Council elects the President and Vice-President
of the UAE, ratifies federal laws and decrees, and approves the nomination of the Prime Minister, who is selected by the President in consultation with Supreme Council members.
His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi, was elected the first President of the Federation. Following his death on 2 November 2004, he was succeeded by his son and Crown Prince, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on 3 November, 2004.
The Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was elected Vice-President of the Federation. After his death on 4 January 2006, he was succeeded by his brother, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The President and Vice-President are elected for a five-year term and are eligible for re-election on the expiry of their terms.
The President exercises a wide range of legislative and executive powers. He is entrusted with signing laws, decrees and decisions approved and sanctioned by the Supreme Council, supervising their implementation through the Council of Ministers, and ratifying treaties and international agreements approved by the Supreme Council and Council of Ministers.
Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers is the UAE’s executive body. It is lead by the Prime Minister, who chooses a Cabinet from among representatives of the seven emirates. The membership of the Cabinet is then ratified by the President. Four members of the current Council of Ministers are women.
Federal National Council
The Federal National Council or FNC is a consultative assembly, made up of 40 members representing the seven emirates. The number of seats assigned to each emirate is determined by their population – Abu Dhabi (8), Dubai (8), Sharjah (6), Ajman (4), Umm al-Quwain (4), Ras al-Khaimah (6), and Fujairah (4). FNC members hold office for four years, and the Council sits from the third week of October.
In December 2006, a process of electing FNC members was initiated. Half the members were elected, and half are nominated by the ruler of each emirate. Nine members of the current FNC are women.
The National Council examines proposed federal legislation and constitutional amendments, reviews the annual draft budget of the Federation, debates international treaties and conventions and influences the Government’s work through discussion, question-and-answer sessions and in making recommendations.
The Federal Judiciary, which is accorded independence under the Constitution, includes the Federal Supreme Court and Courts of First Instance. The Federal Supreme Court comprises five judges appointed by the Supreme Council.
The judges decide on the constitutionality of federal laws and arbitrates on inter-emirate disputes between the Federal Government and the emirates.
Corresponding to the federal institutions are the local governments of the seven emirates. Varying in size, they have evolved along with their respective emirates’ growth, and their mechanisms differ from emirate to emirate.
For more information about the Federal Government please see the Useful Links section of this website.