Special Reports
UAE - The Ruling Federal Structure

June 5, 2000

The federal decision making process in Abu Dhabi has remained largely as it was
when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was created on Dec. 2, 1971. The ruling
structure reflects a careful allocation of power among the seven emirates, with
Abu Dhabi being the first among equals in view of its vast

This federation has proved resilient through the years despite several crises
which challenged its cohesion. It survived the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran,
the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, and the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces. It
finally got a permanent constitution in May 1996 and Dubai, ceasing to resist
integration, got its army to be under the Abu Dhabi-based federal command in late 1997.

However, the federal leadership has no authority over the petroleum sector and
related industries of the seven emirates. Each of them has its own government
and petroleum authority or NOC. There is no real co-ordination among the seven
emirates concerning their industrial sectors. Yet when one emirate promotes a
project which may seriously compete with a similar venture operating in another
emirate, mediation between the two can be expected. But this may or may not
result in agreement. Such agreement could be that the former party drops the new
project in return for a favour, or the latter allows the former to go ahead with
the project in return for a favour. Favours could range from equity in the
existing venture to partnership in the new project or a concession in another
field of industry. One example is the gas supply deal of February 1998 between
Abu Dhabi and Dubai after the latter got its army to be integrated into the
federal system. Horse-trading and rivalries are part of an old tribal tradition
in this area of the world.

The Supreme Council of the Federation, comprising the rulers of the seven
emirates, is the main decision making body, with Abu Dhabi ruler Shaikh Zayed
Bin Sultan Al Nahyan being its head. This is followed by the Council of
Ministers which has a mainly administrative role. The Federal National Council,
or parliament, is a consultative body with limited powers. Abu Dhabi's
representatives play a key role in all of these bodies, as it is by far the
biggest contributor to the annual UAE budgets (see Abu Dhabi survey & who's who
in APS Review Vol. 52, Nos. 1-4).

The Supreme Council, also known as the Supreme Council of Rulers, approves main
policy decisions on federal and foreign affairs as well as defence, trying as
far as possible to accommodate the individual interests of the emirates. The
Council is vested with legislative as well as executive powers. As such it
ratifies the federal laws and decrees, treaties, and the federal budget. It
plans general policy and approves the nomination of the prime minister and
accepts his resignation. It can also relieve the prime minister from his post
upon the recommendation of the president. The Council elects the president and
his deputy for five-year terms, and both may be re-elected.

The annual meetings of the Supreme Council have at times proved difficult to
convene because of deadlock among some of the rulers. On the other hand, such
meetings can have successful outcomes. For example, at a meeting on May 20,
1996, the Council approved a draft amendment to the country's provisional
constitution, making it permanent. The amendment named Abu Dhabi as the capital
of the state.

Each ruler can be represented on this Council by his Crown Prince or designated
deputy. The current Council members are: President Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al
Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi; Vice President and PM Shaikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al
Maktoum, ruler of Dubai; Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, ruler of
Sharjah; Shaikh Saqr Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah; Shaikh
Rashid Bin Ahmad Al Mualla, ruler of Umm Al Quwain; Shaikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al
Nuaimi, ruler of Ajman; and Shaikh Hamad Bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, ruler of
Fujairah (see their profiles in Oil & Gas Market Trends of this week)

The crown princes and deputy rulers, who attend the Council meetings in the
absence of the rulers, are: Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince and
chairman of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of
the UAE armed forces; Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince of
Dubai and minister of defence (see his profile in OMT No. 22), or Shaikh Hamdan
Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the deputy ruler of Dubai and minister of finance &
industry (see profile in Gas Market Trends No. 22); Shaikh Ahmad Bin Sultan Al
Qassimi, deputy ruler of Sharjah; Shaikh Khalid Bin Saqr Al Qassimi, crown
prince of Ras Al Khaimah, or his younger brother deputy ruler Shaikh Sultan Bin
Saqr Al Qassimi; Umm Al Quwain's CP Shaikh Saud Bin Rashid Al Mualla; Shaikh
Ammar Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, CP of Ajman; and Shaikh Hamad Bin Saif Al Sharqi,
deputy ruler of Fujairah (see profiles in Oil & Gas Market Trends of this week).


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