The Political System of the UAE

Overview of the Political System of United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is made up of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ra's al- Khaimah and Fujairah. The United Arab Emirates gained its independence from the UK on December 2, 1971. Its constitution was established on independence, and was made permanent in 1996. The form of government can be referred to as a federal presidential elected monarchy, as the president is elected from among the absolute monarchs who rule each of the seven emirates.

Executive Branch:

The chief of state of the United Arab Emirates is President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (since May 2022), who is the ruler of Abu Dhabi. The head of government is the Vice President and Prime Minister, Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktum (ruler of Dubai), the Deputy Prime Ministers are Saif bin Zayid Al-Nuhayyan (since 2009) and Maktoum bin Mohammed Al-Maktoum (since Sep 2021).

The President appoints a Cabinet, or Council of Ministers. There is also a Federal Supreme Council (FSC) composed of the seven rulers of each of the seven emirates, which meets four times per year. The FSC is the highest constitutional body in the United Arab Emirates, and it establishes general policies and sanctions federal legislation. The FSC also elects the President (and Vice President) from amongst their number, meeting at five-year intervals to reaffirm the existing President or elect a new one. (There is no limit on terms.) However, the emirs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai have effective veto power in elections for the role of President. The last presidential election was held in 2009.

The prime minister and deputy prime minister are appointed by the president.

Legislative Branch:

The Federal National Council (FNC) has 40 seats; the rulers of the seven Emirates appoint 20 members, and 20 are elected to four-year terms. The first elections were held in December 2006, and most recent ones in September 2011. In the most recent election, there were 129,274 eligible voters.

The elections are not based on a party system, but on individual candidates. (There are no political parties in the UAE, because political parties are forbidden.)

In the last election in October 2019, 13 men and seven women were elected.

The next elections will be held in October 2023.

Judicial Branch:

The legal system of the UAE is based on a dual system of Sharia and civil courts.

The judiciary's independence is guaranteed by the Constitution of the UAE, and it includes the Supreme Court and the Courts of First Instance. Judges are appointed by the president.


Each emirate has its own local government, and municipal governments. The constitution established the distribution of authority for each level of government.

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