Comparative Politics, Oxana Shevel, Final Paper
May 7, 2012
The Survival of Monarchy in The United Arab Emirates
Introduction to the United Arab Emirates: From pearl divers and date farmers to oil tycoons and international bankers in 30 years.
The United Arab Emirates or U.A.E. as it will be referred to for most of this paper is a very young country that has experienced extraordinary growth in the last 40 years and become a leader in economy, welfare, education and other areas in the Middle East. The U.A.E. was formed in 1971 when Britain granted independence to the area formerly known as the Trucial Coast or Trucial Oman. The Trucial Coast was made up of seven independent sheikdoms that ruled by Islamic Monarchy over their respective citizens with absolute control. With their independence from Britain in 1971, the sheikdoms already had the basic groundwork and institutions laid for the formation of a state and banded together to form the United Arab Emirates. The formation of the state coincided with huge inflowing of money generated from newly discovered and tapped petroleum resources. Much of this money was directed back into improving public works and welfare programs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. To give an idea about the size and concentration of its oil reserves, the UAE is estimated to contain about eight percent of the world’s oil stocks equivalent to 98 billion barrels and the whole country is smaller than the state of Maine. Besides using the money to develop welfare, the rulers of the U.A.E. reinvested the money into their market by developing other industries apart from oil. Within 30 years the U.A.E. became a hub of international business, boasted a GDP that exceeds many western industrialized countries and is still experiencing growth.
Despite its huge growth economically and its modernizing in a mere thirty years, the government remains today pretty much unchanged from its inception thirty years ago. The seven ruling families still exist and still control their given territories semi-autonomously, and the leaders of each family sit on the Supreme Council of Rulers which hold both executive and legislative powers and select a president and vice president. The leader of Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest and most populated emirate has always been the president with Sheikh Khalifa ibn Zayid Al Nuhayyan currently serving as the second president of the U.A.E. after his father’s passing in 2004. The leader of Dubai, the second most wealthy and populated, has always served as the vice president and prime minister; Sheikh Mohammed ibn Rashid Al Maktum currently serves. The Council of Ministers, also referred to as the cabinet, serves under the prime minister and is explained as the “executive authority” in the constitution. Its members are appointed by the president and prime minister. The 40-member Federal National Council is described as a parliamentary group, though it really is not and serves as a consultative group that examines and amends proposed federal legislation. Half of the members of the FNC are elected by the public and the other half are appointed.
While it may appear that responsibility and power are somewhat distributed among the different cabinets and groups within its government, the U.A.E. still effectively functions as a monarchy that routinely ignores and blocks freedoms. The disconnection between the rapidly modernizing, urban and prosperous economy and an outdated and archaic form of government gives raise to an interesting research question. Why does a monarchy still exist in the U.A.E., a modern and sophisticated country? This in turn gives rise to another question. If this government is ill suited or outdated to the state, what will replace it or how will it be reformed to better deal with the problems and demands of a modern nation?
The survival of a monarchical government in the U.A.E. does not follow suit with the relationship established by...