New geopolitical processes are recently observed in the Arab world. Another wave of Arab spring is coming to Sudan, Algeria and probably Chad, according to the expert forecasts. In this situation, new centers of influence are emerging, such as Saudi Arabia, which dictates its rules to many geopolitical players in the region, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The latter are of particular interest for research because this state represents an economic phenomenon, one of the richest countries worldwide, where the political and social structure differs greatly from that in Western countries.
The UAE is a federation state. According to the Constitution, the supreme body of state power is the Federal Supreme Council composed of the rulers of emirates. They elect the President for a 5-year term from among the Council members and he, in turn, appoints the Prime Minister. By tradition, the President is the ruler of Abu Dhabi emirate and the Prime Minister is ruling Dubai. The Council determines the general state policy, and the Council of Ministers is responsible to the Supreme Council for implementing of this policy. The Federal Center (Abu Dhabi) deals with foreign, defence, financial and customs policies, internal security, as well as implements the national target programs for the country’s socio-economic development.
Each of the seven emirates is a monarchy, which has significant independence and exercises sovereignty over its lands and territorial waters. Each emirate has a government of its own (executive council) responsible for the economy, education, culture, healthcare, housing and utilities, and pension. The emirates’ rulers assume this position by the right of inheritance; the heir is appointed by the Sheikh and is ipso facto introduced into the Supreme Council after taking office.
The country’s provisional Constitution was adopted on December 2, 1971, the day when the UAE was founded, and was approved as permanent by the UAE Supreme Council on May 20, 1996.
After the death of the state founder and the first President of the UAE, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in November 2004, his son Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was elected as President.
The Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
Since January 2006, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, holds concurrently positions of the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, replacing his older brother Maktoum, who died in January 2006.
The Prime Minister, appointed by the head of state, forms the government (Council of Ministers) and submits its composition to the President for approval. The most recent structural and personnel changes in the Cabinet were introduced in October 2017. The government, as key actor in the legislative process, develops draft laws, which are forwarded for approval by the President after consultation with the Federal National Council (FNC).
The FNC is an advisory body of parliamentary type established in 1972, in accordance with the Constitution. It does not have right to move legislative initiatives but provides conclusions on draft federal laws, which are taken as recommendations. The FNC is made of 40 members, 20 appointed and 20 elected; Abu Dhabi and Dubai both are represented by eight, both Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah are represented by six, and other emirates – by four deputies each. Deputies are mostly representatives of influential tribes, business circles and intellectual elite. Their term of office is four years.
The right to elect and be elected in the UAE is granted only to members of the so-called electoral board formed by representatives of all the seven emirates by decision of their rulers.
The last elections to the FNC were held on October 3, 2015. For the second half of deputy corpus (appointed by decisions of the emirate rulers), the procedure was completed on November 16, 2015, and the new FNC convocation held its first meeting in Abu Dhabi the same month. On November 18, 2015, Amal Amal Al Qubaisi, former FNC deputy speaker and chairwoman of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, was elected as the Council President. She is the first woman not only in the UAE, but throughout the Arab world to become head of the national parliamentary body. Her deputies are Marwan Ahmad Ali Khalifa Bin Galita and Abdul Aziz Abdullah Salem Al Zaabi.
The FNC is the member of the International Parliamentary Union (IPU), as well as the Arab Inter-parliamentary Union (APU). It keeps contacts with the parliaments of other countries.
The UAE Judicial Power is represented by the Federal Supreme Court (FSC), Court of First Instance and Court of Appeal, as well as local courts of emirates. The FSC consists of five judges appointed by the UAE Supreme Council. In addition, there is a system of Sharia courts, mainly dealing with the civil registry and family law cases.
Tribal structures and their role in the political life of the country are of particular interest to the study.
The emirates, which made constituent parts of the UAE, emerged in the early XVIIIth century, when the resident tribes were replaced by newcomers, Arab tribes of four tribal unions: Bani Yas, Manasir, Al-Dhawahir and Al-Awamir. Each tribal union embraced 5-15 tribes, which, in turn, united 9-16 clans and even more. At the moment, the generalized distribution of tribes across the UAE territory is as follows: Bani Yas tribal unions – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah; Manasir – Abu Dhabi, Sharjah; Dhawahir and Awamir – Abu Dhabi; Na’im – Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah; Sharqiyin – Fujairah; Bani Murrah – Dubai; al Ali – Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah; al Qawasim – Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah. The Shihuh tribe lived in the eastern mountains since the pre-Islamic times.
Traditional tribal organization degraded over time; many tribes shifted from one union to another, got mixed territorially and lost their separateness. As a result, their groups assumed gradually the features of political and religious associations. Currently, most of the UAE indigenous population considers it necessary to be at least nominally attributed to one or another tribe. This applies especially to the ruling families, their intimate circle, prominent persons of the clan aristocracy. The top of the bureaucratic oligarchy and representatives of the local elite, tied together with close business and family links, provide the core social support to the UAE ruling regime.
In the near future, the IAC to publish a comprehensive study on the socio-political situation in the UAE and the country’s relations with key geopolitical players.