United Arab Emirates: Government
Principal Government Officials
Chief of State: President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Head of Government: Prime Minister and Vice President Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Administratively, the U.A.E. is a loose federation of seven emirates, each with its own ruler. Under the provisional constitution of 1971, each emirate reserves considerable powers, including control over mineral rights (notably oil and gas) and revenues. In this milieu, federal powers have developed slowly. The constitution established the positions of President (Chief of State) and Vice President, each serving 5-year terms; a Council of Ministers, led by a Prime Minister (head of government); a supreme council of rulers; and a 40-member Federal National Council (FNC). The FNC is a consultative body with half its members appointed by the emirate rulers and half elected through an electorate chosen by the rulers of each emirate.
While the U.A.E. has worked to strengthen its federal institutions since achieving independence, each emirate still retains substantial autonomy. A basic concept in the U.A.E. Government's development as a federal system is that a significant percentage of each emirate's revenues should be devoted to the U.A.E. central budget.
The U.A.E. has no political parties. The rulers hold power on the basis of their dynastic position and their legitimacy in a system of tribal consensus. Rapid modernization, enormous strides in education, and the influx of a large foreign population have changed the face of the society. In December 2006, the U.A.E. held its first-ever limited elections to select half the members of the FNC. Ballots were cast by electors selected by the ruler of each emirate. One woman was elected to the FNC and additional women were appointed to be council members. In September 2011, the U.A.E. held its second FNC elections, this time expanding the electoral pool from under 7,000 in 2006 to nearly 130,000 voters. Again, one woman was elected; an additional six were later appointed.
The U.A.E. is a member of the United Nations and the Arab League and has established diplomatic relations with more than 60 countries, including the U.S., Japan, Russia, the People's Republic of China, and most western European countries. It has played a moderate role in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, the United Nations, and the GCC.
Substantial development assistance has increased the U.A.E.'s stature among recipient states. Most of this foreign aid (in excess of $15 billion over time) has been to Arab and Muslim countries. In 2007, the U.A.E. pledged and delivered $300 million to Lebanon, and was the first country to fulfill its pledge. The U.A.E. has provided significant monetary and material support to the Iraqi Government, including a pledge of $215 million in economic and reconstruction assistance, and has also provided substantial aid to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Palestinian Authority.
The U.A.E. is a member of the following international organizations: UN and several of its specialized agencies (ICAO, ILO, UPU, WHO, WIPO); World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Arab League, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the Non-Aligned Movement. The U.A.E. is also a member of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and hosts the headquarters at Abu Dhabi.
Sources:CIA World Factbook (December 2011)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( December 2011)