The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven Emirates. The legislative branch is the unicameral Al-Majlis Al-Watani Al-Ittihadi, or Federal National Counci (FNC). Twenty of the FNC's 40 members are elected by 7000 notables who are chosen by the local governments to represent various social groups and tribes. The other twenty are appointed by the rulers of the Emirates to serve a two-year-term of office with the possibility of renewal. The selection process of the FNC members is left by the constitution to the Emirates' discretion. Of the 40 members the share of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is 8 members each. Sharjah and Ra’s al Khaymah have 6 members each, and Ajman, Umm al Oaywayn, and Al Fujayrah each have four members on the Federal National Council.
The FNC reviews legislation and proposes amendments to it, but it does not have the power to veto laws or to initiate new laws. As such, the parliament is largely a consultative body. The Council, however, does have the power to examine and amend proposed legislation and the power to summon and question any federal minister as well as its own members. One of the main duties of the FNC is to discuss the annual budget.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
The beginning and termination of legislative sessions are determined by presidential decree.
The FNC elects a chairman, two deputies, two elected observers to aid the chairman, and a secretary general. The chairman, the council's undersecretary, the secretary general, and four elected members also make up the parliamentary Executive Committee. The chairman controls the Council’s Bureau and its committees, supervises the General Secretariat, prepares the Council’s budget, heads sessions, gives permission to commence deliberations, organizes discussions, takes votes, and announces resolutions. The current chairman is Saeed Mohammed Al Kendi. The secretary general is Mohamed Mohammed Rashed Al Seraidy.
The Standing Orders of the FNC establish its rules and procedures, including the constitution of its committees and particularly of the Executive Committee. Members of the FNC are free to express their opinions. They enjoy immunity from investigation or imprisonment, except in the case of flagrant crime. The request or permission to lift a member’s immunity is submitted first to the chairman and then to the Legal and Legislative Committee before general vote. Such request is approved by a majority of the members’ votes.
Committee Structures and Membership
The day-to-day operations of the FNC are governed by the Standing Order of 1977 (Federal Decree No. 97). The standing order establishes permanent committees in areas such as internal affairs, defense, financial, economic, and industrial affairs, legislative and legal affairs, education, youth, information, culture, health, social affairs, foreign affairs, petroleum, agriculture, fisheries, Islamic affairs, awqaf, public utilities, complaints and investigations of its own members. Members of committees are elected annually at the first meeting of the year. Temporary committees may be formed in each legislative cycle based on need. Each Council member has to serve on at least one permanent committee.
Legislative Drafting Processes
Federal laws are drafted by the Council of Ministers and are then submitted to the FNC, where they are first sent to the proper committee. If a committee makes amendments to the proposed draft by the executive, the amended draft goes to the Legal and Legislative Committee, before the floor debate, for consultation and formulation of its provisions. Finally, the draft is presented to the president of the federation.
The FNC is a member of both the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU).