Decision-Making Process in the UAE Government

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 8
Words: 2337
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: PhD


The progress of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from the silent trading area to international player has been extraordinary. The nation’s reasonable foreign policies and insistent diversification far from gas and oil have assisted in development of the economy, which has led to a GDP on a par with the leading West European countries (Metz, 1993). Advantageously placed between Asia and Europe, and with many Free Trade Zones suggesting hundred percent foreign possessions and zero taxes, the United Arab Emirates has fascinated international organizations, investors and workers of which 85% are foreigners (Metz, 1993). Whilst oil and gas exports have been the major elements of the local economy, the concentration on architecture and expansion of infrastructure have led to the development in manufacturing, tourism and leisure spheres (Metz, 1993).

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This paper is meant to provide the introduction to the political system in the UAE federal government and thoroughly describe the process of decision-making in the UAE federal system. The paper claims that in spite of the fact that the Federal Supreme Council is the supreme level of the administration, the president is the supreme body in the decision-making process.

Executive and Legislative Branches

In spite of an open-door policy in relation to foreign investments and employees, the country is still conscious of maintaining the Arab distinctiveness in the public area (Metz, 1993). The people of the UAE consider their distinctiveness as their major advantage, thus, they try to preserve not only their traditions, but also the structure of the federal government. Today, the United Arab Emirates is a constitutional monarchy with a presidential system, an executive branch, which is efficiently hereditary, and leadership drawn wholly from local families (Bazoobandi, 2013, p. 74). The Federal Supreme Council, consisting of emirs or governors of the seven emirates, chooses the country’s president and prime minister, who also perform the duties of the emir of Abu Dhabi and Dubai (Bazoobandi, 2013, p. 74). The other governmental body, the Federal National Court, is partially elected by the seven emirs and partly elected by people, with the aim of having a completely elected, representative council (Bazoobandi, 2013, p. 74-75), which is especially beneficial to the populace.

Due to the character of its structure, the administration of the country works in a diverse way to nations of democracies in the West (Elbanna, 2006, p. 1–20). To begin with, there are no parties and no genuine elections. Due to the fact that the UAE is a federation, the government has three major levels: the federal one, which is similar to the government; emirate degree, for instance, Dubai; and finally, municipal administration (Elbanna, 2006, p. 1–20). Emirates perform their duties on two levels, emirate and federal one, which are frequently paralleled. However, at times, they can function in a dissimilar way (Elbanna, 2006, p. 1–20). In any case, power is hierarchical in the country.

On July 18, 1971, six emirates, which were called the Trucial Coast states, admitted the temporary constitution of the country (Hiro, 2013, p. 17-18). It should be mentioned that the seventh emirate joined the other emirates in 1972. In three long years of dispute among the emirs, the official paper was publicized in the year 1971, on the country’s independence day (Hiro, 2013, p. 17-18). The provisional constitution was created advantageously in relation to the populace of the UAE. Thanks to the constitution all the power was to be divided among legislative, executive, and judicial spheres (Hiro, 2013, p. 17-18).

The Supreme Council of the Union (SCU), also recognized as the Federal Supreme Council, performs the duties of the highest federal authority in legislative and executive spheres (Hiro, 2013, p. 17-18). In fact, the executive branch comprises the Federal Supreme Council, the Council of Ministers, and the president. The Federal Supreme Council consists of the emirs; it chooses a vice chairman and a chairman, who function during five years (Metz, 1993). Country’s Council of Ministers controls all the federal affairs. In the year 1992 there were twenty-five ministers, and the country’s citizenship is the major condition for becoming a minister. Obviously, all ministers have to provide the results of the work to president and the SCU. Apart from the executive tasks, the ministers are answerable for creating bills for formal performance (Metz, 1993).

Under the constitution, the Federal National Council (FNC) is the major legislative authority, but its genuine function in the administrative system is restricted to consultation (Metz, 1993). All forty participants are selected for two years by the emirs (Metz, 1993). To be specific, Dubai and Abu Dhabi emirates assign eight participants to the FNC (Metz, 1993). Members of the Federal National Council have to be citizens of the emirates that they stand for, at least 21 years of old, and educated.

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The FNC usually gathers for a minimum of half a year, starting in November (Metz, 1993). The president of the country can call an extraordinary session if required. The FNC also makes offers about the legislative matters to the ministers, the Federal Supreme Council and the president of the country (Metz, 1993). This organ can discuss any administrative bills accepted by the Council of Ministers; it may agree with, alter, or decline them, with no veto right (Metz, 1993).

The Judiciary Branch

The constitution states that the Islamic regulation sharia is the foundation of the country’s legislative organization (Metz, 1993). Three of four legal schools of Sunni Islam have followers in the nation. The majority of citizens follow the Maliki school. However, some support the Shafii and Hanbali institutions (Metz, 1993). The Twelver lawful school of Shia also enjoys its supporters (Metz, 1993).

Article 94 of the constitution protects the autonomy of the judicial sphere under the Supreme Court (Metz, 1993). This Supreme Court embraces a president and up to five judges assigned by the UAE president, after the SCU’s consent. The Supreme Court can judicially examine the disputes between emirates and within seven emirates (Metz, 1993). It also can try cases of official misbehavior counting cabinet and other senior federal representatives (Metz, 1993). Consistent with the constitution, the country can create union courts to arbitrate all civil, commercial, criminal, and administrative disputes (Metz, 1993).

The Uppermost Decision-making Authority in the Country

Basically, the Federal Supreme Council is supposed to be the uppermost decision-making authority in the nation. It embraces the governors of seven emirates (Bazoobandi, 2013, p. 74). In this way the government guarantees that the decisions made on the supreme level will serve the interests of all seven emirates and their people. The chairman is elected by the council among its members every five years (Elbanna, 2006, p. 1–20). The term of the vice-chairman is five years as well. Today, it is held by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The Supreme Council elects the president from its members, and the vice-president works as the President in his absence (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46-49). Article (52) of the provisional constitution restricts the term of office of the president and the vice-president for five years. The Federal council of ministers comprises the Prime Minister and his deputy, and the country’s ministers (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46-49)). The Council will supervises all domestic and foreign affairs as in agreement with the Constitution and federal laws (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46-49).

The Process of Decision-making in UAE Federal System

Consistent with Khalid S. Almezaini (2012, p. 46), in the Arab Gulf states, in spite of the official stance, decision making is concentrated in the hands of the ruling families, especially if there is one powerful leader within the family. The decision-making process in these states is complex, as it at times goes through the process embracing numerous institutions; at times it relies on the circumstances; at other times decisions are made without any institutional process, but by one leader (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46). Moreover, F. Gregory Gause (1994, p. 120) states that the decision-makers in these states are mostly “extremely sophisticated players in the political arena, and usually have decades of experience in dealing with other leaders, including foreign representatives.”

Consistent with Abdulla Baabood, “the genuine choices of policy-making elites are shaped by their values and interests within the framework of the country’s governing institutions and powerful interest groups” (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46). This conduct may be explained by the relations between these regimes with their diplomatic abilities. Basically, the politics is still very personal in the UAE, where every member of the ruling family enjoys a high status and position (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46). This situation may be recognized as negative in the relation to the people of the UAE, as regardless of the provisions in the constitution all decisions are made by a closed group of people. Luckily, the majority of the populace of the UAE support the decisions made by their rulers, which is confirmed by the fact that the UAE managed to avoid the huge revolts during the 2011 Arab Spring. The emirs and the president of the country do not act impulsively and take time to think through the options thoroughly (Almezaini, 2012, p. 47).

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Strength and Weaknesses of the UAE Decision-making

Thus, the major decision-makers in the UAE are the ruling families (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46). Individuals outside the ruling families play a comparatively meaningful role as advisers (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46). The authority of the ruling family in the decision-making process presupposes that this process does not follow rational bureaucratic model (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46). It is believed that the president cannot take decisions without prior consulting the members of the FSC, but in practice this happens under certain circumstances (Almezaini, 2012, p. 46).

The president is the highest authority in the decision-making process because he is the executive. The president functions as the chairman of the SCU, commander of the Union Defense Force and head of the country (Metz, 1993). He arranges the FSC and selects the prime minister and all other ministers, as well as other senior civil and armed representatives. He has the ability to announce martial law and to perform dissimilar functions connected to the chief executive (Metz, 1993). All these aspects make one person and his family the single decision-making organ in the country.

Still, decisions cannot be taken without consulting the members of the FSC, which is believed to be the main institution in the UAE policy-making (Almezaini, 2012, p. 47). It embraces members of the ruling families of all seven emirates. In spite of the fact that the constitution stipulates that the Federal Supreme Council is the supreme level of the administration, in practice the president is the supreme body in the decision-making process (Almezaini, 2012, p. 47).

According to the Article 47, the Federal Supreme Council has the authority to approve dissimilar treaties (Almezaini, 2012, p. 47). Moreover, the FSC can delegate to the president and the Federal Council of Ministers the power to issue whatever decrees are necessary in its absence; such delegation of power does not embrace the approval of agreements (Almezaini, 2012, p. 47). Therefore, the president’s authority to conclude agreements is subject to the approval of the Federal Supreme Council (Al-Alkim 1989, p. 98). Moreover, the Federal Supreme Council can oppose any agreements concluded between emirates and neighboring countries. If the FSC opposes treaties, then the issue should be delayed until the administration makes a decision at the earliest possible moment (Almezaini, 2012, p. 47). Hence, it seems like the decision-making of the UAE is mostly in the hands of the Federal Supreme Council, although usually the FSC is not consulted at all (Almezaini, 2012, p. 47-48). In the major part of the cases, the president’s impact on the Federal Supreme Council is greater than that which the federal law specifies (Almezaini, 2012, p. 47-48). Basically, the decision-making is made within the circle surrounding the president that embraces his advisers, his sons, and especially “the Crown Prince”, his successor (Almezaini, 2012, p. 48). Obviously, this situation may be recognized as the weakness of the UAE decision-making process as personal interests play the major role in creating the politics of the UAE and regardless of the provisions in the constitution all decisions are made by a small group of relatives. Luckily, the majority of the populace support the decisions made by their rulers, as their emirs and the president do not act impulsively and take time to think through the options carefully. Due to oil money and the booming economy the UAE government has an opportunity to maintain political neutrality and impartiality. Hence, there is no need for the president to support other countries in the prejudice of own people. The country’s oil money, unique attractions and luxury experience, such as long beaches and exploration opportunities enable the federal government to remain neutral on the political arena, notwithstanding who has the final say in the political issues.

The Highest Decision-making Authorities in the UAE
The Highest Decision-making Authorities in the UAE


This paper provided the introduction to the political system in the UAE federal government and described the process of the decision-making in UAE federal system. In spite of the fact that the Federal Supreme Council is the supreme level of the administration, the president is the supreme body in the decision-making process.

It is presumed that the president of the UAE cannot make decisions without consulting the governors of all seven emirates (the Federal supreme Council), but in practice the emirs are rarely consulted as all the decisions are made by the president and the circle surrounding him. Usually the president’s impact on the Federal Supreme Council is larger than that which the federal law specifies. Hence, personal interests play an extremely significant role in shaping the politics of the country. Such federal structure might be recognized as harmful in the relation to the people of the UAE, as regardless of the provisions in the constitution all decisions are made by a small group of relatives. Luckily, the majority of the populace support the decisions made by their rulers, as their emirs and the president do not act impulsively and take time to think through the options carefully.


Al-Alkim, Hassan Hamdan, 1989, The Foreign Policy of the United Arab Emirates (London: Saqi Books).

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Almezaini, Khalid S., 2012, The UAE and Foreign Policy: Foreign Aid, Identities and Interests (New York: Routledge).

Bazoobandi, Sara, 2013, The Political Economy of the Gulf Sovereign Wealth Funds: A Case Study of Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (New York: Routledge).

Elbanna, Said, 2006 “Strategic Decision-Making: Process Perspectives”, International Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 8, no. 1 (March), 1–20.

Gause, F. Gregory, 1994, Oil Monarchies: Domestic and Security Challenges in the Arab Gulf States (New York: Council on Foreign Relations).

Hiro, Dilip, 2013, Inside the Middle East (New York: Routledge).

Metz, Helem Chapin (ed), 1993, Persian Gulf States: A Country Study (Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress), Web.