Government and Political System

The United Arab Emirates is a constitutional federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. The federation was formally established on 2 December 1971.

Since the establishment of the federation in 1971, the seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have forged a distinct national identity through consolidation of their federal status and enjoy an enviable degree of political stability. The UAE's political system, a unique combination of the traditional and the modern, has underpinned this political success, enabling the country to develop a modern administrative structure while, at the same time, ensuring that the best of the traditions of the past are maintained, adapted and preserved.

Each of the component emirates already had its own existing institutions of government prior to 1971 and, to provide for the effective governing of the new state, the rulers agreed to draw up a provisional Constitution specifying the powers that were to be allocated to the new federal institutions, all others remaining the prerogative of the emirates.

Areas of responsibility assigned to the federal authorities, under Articles 120 and 121 of the Constitution, were foreign affairs, security and defense, nationality and immigration issues, education, public health, currency, postal, telephone and other communications services, air traffic control and licensing of aircraft, in addition to a number of other topics specifically prescribed, including labor relations, banking, delimitation of territorial waters and extradition of criminals. The Constitution also stated in Article 116 that 'the Emirates shall exercise all powers not assigned to the Federation by this Constitution'. This was reaffirmed in Article 122, which stated that 'the Emirates shall have jurisdiction in all matters not assigned to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federation, in accordance with the provision of the preceding two Articles'.

In May 1996, the Federal Supreme Council approved two amendments to the provisional Constitution, making it permanent and naming Abu Dhabi as the capital of the state.

The federal system of government includes a Supreme Council, a Cabinet, or Council of Ministers, a parliamentary body, the Federal National Council, and an independent judiciary, at the apex of which is the Federal Supreme Court.

Federal Supreme Council

During their initial discussions on forming a federation, the rulers of the seven emirates agreed that each of them would be a member of a Supreme Council, the top policy-making body in the new state and that they would elect a President and a Vice President from amongst their number, to serve for a five-year, renewable, term of office. The Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was elected as the first President, a post to which he was re-elected at successive five-yearly intervals until his death in November 2004, while the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, was elected as first Vice President, a post he continued to hold until his death in 1990. Both were succeeded by their Crown Princes, who became rulers of their emirates and were elected by the members of the Federal Supreme Council to become respectively President, for the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Vice President, for the Ruler of Dubai. Sheikh Rashid's successor as Vice-President, Sheikh Maktoum, died in early 2006, and was succeeded as ruler by his younger brother and Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, who was then elected as the UAE's third Vice President.

The Federal Supreme Council has both legislative and executive powers. It ratifies federal laws and decrees, plans general policy, approves the nomination of the Prime Minister and accepts his resignation. It also relieves him of his post on the recommendation of the President.

Council of Ministers / Cabinet

The Council of Ministers or Cabinet, described in the Constitution as 'the executive authority' for the Federation, includes the usual complement of ministerial portfolios and is headed by a Prime Minister, chosen by the President in consultation with his colleagues on the Supreme Council. The Prime Minister, currently the Vice-President (although this has not always been the case), then selects the ministers, who may be drawn from any of the Federation's component emirates, although, naturally, the more populous emirates have generally provided more members of each Cabinet.

A 24-member Cabinet was appointed on 11 February 2006, according to the proposal of Vice President HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who had been requested to form a new Government following his accession as Ruler of Dubai and election as Vice-President the previous month. This Cabinet was reshuffled on 17 February 2008 to include a new portfolio for foreign trade and the realignment of several ministries of state.

Local Governments

Parallel to, and interlocking with, the federal institutions, each of the seven emirates also has its own local government. All have expanded significantly as a result of the country's growth over the last 35 years, though they differ in complexity from emirate to emirate, depending on factors such as population, area, and degree of development.

President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (3 November 2004)
Vice-President & Prime Minister HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (5 January 2006)
Supreme Council Members
  • HH President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi
  • HH Vice-President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai
  • HH Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah
  • HH Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah
  • HH Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Ruler of Fujairah
  • HH Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mu'alla, Ruler of Umm Al Qaiwain
  • HH Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Ruler of Ajman
Crown Princes
  • HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council
  • HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council
  • HH Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, Chairman of Sharjah Executive Council
  • HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah
  • HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamed Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah
  • HH Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman
  • HH Sheikh Rashid bin Saud bin Rashid Al Mu'alla, Crown Prince of Umm Al Qaiwain
Deputies of the Rulers
  • HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Minister of Finance
  • HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai
  • HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah
  • HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Salim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah
  • HH Sheikh Hamad bin Saif Al Sharqi, Deputy Ruler of Fujairah
  • HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid Al Mu'alla, Deputy Ruler of Umm Al Qaiwain
Members
of the
Cabinet
  • Prime Minister and Minister of Defence: Vice President HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior: HH Lt Gen. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs: HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Minister of Finance: HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum
  • Minister of Interior: HH Lt Gen. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs: HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan
  • Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research: Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan
  • Minister of Public Works: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan
  • Minister of Foreign Trade: Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi
  • Minister of Cabinet Affairs: Mohammed Abdullah Al Gargawi
  • Minister of Energy: Mohammed bin Dha'en Al Hamili
  • Minister of Economy: Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri
  • Minister of Social Affairs: Mariam Mohammed Khalfan Al Roumi
  • Minister of Education: Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qattami
  • Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development: Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais
  • Minister of Health (Acting): Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais
  • Minister of Justice: Dr Hadef bin Jua'an Al Dhaheri
  • Minister of Environment and Water: Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad
  • Minister of Labour: Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash
  • Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs: Dr Mohammed Anwar Gargash
  • Minister of State for Financial Affairs: Obaid Humaid Al Tayer
  • Minister of State: Dr Maitha Salem Al Shamsi
  • Minister of State: Dr Khalifa Bakheet Al Falasi
  • Minister of State: Reem Ibrahim Al Hashimi
Chairman of Federal National Council Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr (11 / 2011)


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