At a Glance:
Year became a federation: 1971
Current constitution in force since: 1971 (revised 1996)
Constituent units: 7 Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm al Qaiwain, Ra's al Khaymah.)
Head of State: President
Head of Government: President
Legislature: Federal National Council
United Arab Emirates
Federalism in the United Arab Emirates
Although the UAE is a decentralized federation in practice, this decentralization has not negatively affected the country which has enjoyed a significant degree of stability since independence.
In 2006, as a first step toward government reform, the first election was held for half of the advisory Federal National Council. The UAE government has indicated support for stronger legal and legislative authority for the Council.
Arab tribes faced challenges starting in the 16th century from European countries competing for trade. Beginning with the 1820 General Treaty of Peace, the British signed agreements with rulers (sheiks) aimed at guaranteeing peace and ending piracy. In 1952, seven sheikdoms formed the Trucial States Council, a discussion and coordination forum. In 1971, after efforts to join with Bahrain and Qatar broke down, the UAE became independent. Six sheikdoms formed the UAE in 1971 while the seventh joined in 1972. Further centralization occurred in 1976 when the federal government attained control over such areas as immigration, public security and border control.
The constitution, which mixes aspects of traditional and modern rule, represents a compromise between emirates favouring centralization and those preferring autonomy. Despite an apparently broad array of federal powers, the constitution provides for a loosely bound federation in practice.
* Development assistance program countries