The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates, or states. Some governing powers are delegated to the federation while others remain within the purview of the individual emirates. In 1971 when the UAE gained independence from Britain, a constitution was written which remained transitional until 1996. The Constitution stipulates the form of executive and legislative authority. The highest body in the land is the Federal Supreme Council (FSC), composed of the rulers of the seven emirates. Each of the emirs is a hereditary position. The seven members of the Supreme Council elect the president and vice president. The president then appoints a prime minister, a deputy prime minister, and a Council of Ministers to serve as a cabinet body.
Election Laws, Systems and Processes
The president of the United Arab Emirates, Shaikh Khalifa Ben Zayed Al-Nahayan, announced during the 34th anniversary of the establishment of the Union on December 1, 2005 that his country would hold partial parliamentary elections for the first time ever to elect half of the 40 members of the National Federal Council. The government constituted a Supreme National Election Committee to supervise the election process. The electorate eligible voters consisted of 7000 persons chosen by local governments from various social groups and tribes.
In February 1972, a parliamentary body, the Federal National Council (al-Majlis al-Watani al-Itihad) was established. The 40-member parliament has a unicameral structure and serves mainly in an advisory capacity. The leaders of each of the seven emirates appoint members for two-year terms to the Federal National Council (FNC). Seats are apportioned in the following manner: Abu Dhabi and Dubai each appoint eight members, Sharjah and Ras Al-Khaima each appoint six members, and Ajman, Umm Al-Qwuain, and Fujairah each appoint four members.
The first partial legislative election in the United Arab Emirates took place over 3 stages on December 16, 18, 20, 2006. There were 439 candidates, of whom 65 were women. The first round was to elect four deputies representing Abu Dhabi and two for Al-Fujaira. There were 134 candidates, including 14 women. One female candidate from Abu-Dhabi, Mrs. Amal Al-Qaisi, was elected to the parliament. The rate of participation was 60%. The second stage, for four deputies from Dubai and three from Ras Al-Khaimah, attracted 143 candidates, No women were elected despite a participation rate of 71%. The third stage on December 20 was to elect three deputies representing the Emirate of Sharjah and two each for the Emirates of Ojman and Um Al-Quwain. In addition to the twenty elected members another twenty were appointed, including eight women. Abu Dhabi appointed one woman out of its 4 appointed members; Dubai appointed 3 women out of its 4 appointed members, while the emirates of Sharjah, Ras Al-Khaima, Ojman and Al-Fujaira appointed one woman each of their share in the Federal National Council. Thus the newly constituted Federal National Council, convened by federal presidential decree on February 3, 2007, includes 9 women among its 40 members.