The Federal National Council (FNC) is the consultative council, the parliamentary body of the UAE. It has 40 members. During the first session of the 17th legislative chapter of the FNC held on 14 November 2019, the members of the FNC unanimously elected Saqr Ghobash as Speaker of the Council.
The Federal National Council (FNC) is the consultative council, the parliamentary body of the UAE. It was formed as per the provisions of the UAE's Constitution. Its main functions as per Articles 89 to 92 include:
passing, amending or rejecting federal draft laws including financial bills
examining the Annual General Budget draft law and the draft law of the final accounts
discussing international treaties and agreements
discussing general subject pertaining to the affairs of the Federation and offering recommendations
As per Article 45 of the Constitution, the Federal National Council is fourth of the five federal authorities. Articles 68 to 93 lay down further provisions relating to its organisation and jurisdiction.
Article 72 states that an FNC member shall hold office for four years from the date of its first meeting.
Article 77 of the Constitution states that a member of the FNC represents the entire population of the UAE and not merely the emirate, which that member represents in the FNC.
Article 81 states that members of the FNC shall not be accountable for any opinions or views they express while performing their duties in the FNC or in the committees.
Article 82 provides that when the Council is in session, and in cases other than flagrant delict, no criminal measures may be taken against any of its members except with the authorisation of the FNC. Should such measures be taken when the Council is not in session, it should be notified thereof.
The FNC's 16th legislative chapter convened in November 2015 where eight women were appointed; equalling to 20 per cent of the total membership.
Composition of the FNC
According to Article 68 of the UAE Constitution, the FNC shall have 40 members. The number of seats assigned to each emirate is proportionate to its population as follows:
Before the UAE was formed, the principle of 'Shura' or consultation was the common form of governance in the Trucial States. Usually, the head of the tribe consulted his advisors and took their opinion before making a decision.
Later, when the UAE federation was established in 1971, the same principle of democracy and sharing continued as the main pillar of the UAE's Constitution and the federal authorities.
The FNC passed through two important stages:
the foundation stage (from 1971 to 2004)
the reformation stage (since 2006)
The foundation stage (from 1971 to 2004)
The FNC was established as per the provisional Constitution adopted by the UAE Government in 1971. In this stage, all its 40 members were appointed by the Rulers of the seven emirates.
The late President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan convened the first session of the FNC on 13 February 1972. The Rulers of each emirate and Cabinet members also attended it. The session marked an important time in the history of the country and the important role expected from the Council. The late Sheikh Zayed encouraged FNC members to speak freely and express the needs of the citizens honestly.
The reformation stage (since 2006)
In 2006, H. H. Sheikh Khalifa approved the Supreme Council Resolution No. 4 of 2006, which revised the method of selecting the representatives of the emirates in the Federal National Council by combining the process of election and appointment.
This was aimed at providing an opportunity for the citizens to elect their representatives to the FNC. The objective of electing members to the FNC is to boost national loyalty and public interest in the national affairs, through contributions of young, educated and enthusiastic population and the role of the women. It reflects the mutual trust between the rulers and the citizens, and the government's intention to maintain social and economic growth hand in hand with its people.
Thus, the Ruler's Court in each of the seven emirates would appoint half of the members while the electoral bodies representing the citizens would elect the other half.
In 2006, the UAE established the electoral college system. Under this system, every emirate has its own electoral college consisting of members equal to at least 300 times the number of seats allotted to it.
The members of an emirate's electoral college are chosen by the Ruler of that emirate. The Ruler also decides the demographics and other terms and conditions of the voters. For example, upon his discretion, he may allocate a percentage of voters to be females, seniors or adults.
Every member of the electoral college has the right to apply for candidacy of the FNC subject to compliance with eligibility rules as mentioned below.
Candidates have the right to run for elections in the emirate they belong to.
Members of the electoral college have the right to vote for a candidate of his/her choice from the emirate he/she belongs to.
20 candidates with the highest votes become members of the FNC.
Eligibility for FNC membership
Article 69 of the Constitution states 'Each emirate shall be free to determine the method of selecting the citizens representing it in the Federal National Council'.
In addition, certain rules do apply to prospective and functioning FNC members. They are provided for in Articles 70 and 71 of the as follows:
An FNC member must be a citizen of an emirate of the UAE and must be residing permanently in the emirate, which he/she represents in the FNC
When selected, he/she must not be less than 25 years of age according to Gregorian calendar
He/she must have civil capacity, good conduct, good reputation and must not have previously been convicted of a dishonourable offence unless he has been rehabilitated in accordance with the law
He/she must have adequate reading and writing knowledge
A member of the FNC cannot at the same time hold a public office in the UAE including ministerial portfolios
The family book (Khulasat Al Qaid) is the benchmark, which indicates the emirate to which the UAE national belongs.
Membership to the electoral college will change upon each new election term.
Voting is a personal right, which must be exercised only by the voter. Voter cannot authorise this right to anyone else.
The voter must present Emirates ID to verify his/her identity before voting.
Each voter is entitled to cast only one vote for only one candidate from among the candidates of the emirate he/she belongs to under the 'Single Vote' system.
National Election Committee
The National Election Committee (NEC) is in charge of planning and supervising the election process. It was formed in 2006 by a resolution made by H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and issues the regulatory rules and determine the date of the elections.
Members can voting from both inside and outside the UAE. The polling stations are determined by the National Election Committee, both within and outside the country.
Voting inside the UAE
The voter may cast his vote through the electronic voting system at the allocated polling stations throughout the UAE.
Illiterate voters, blind and people with special needs can cast a verbal note at the polling centre in each emirate.
Election is considered as the beginning of the first phase of the political empowerment programme of H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE. Three elections were held since 2006. Here is a brief account of each election for the FNC.
The first election in 2006
The first elections of Federal National Council were held in December 2006 by virtue of the Resolution No. 3 of 2006, issued by H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.
The electoral college had 6595 members nationwide out of which 456 were contesting for the FNC membership.
Key highlights of 2006 elections
The elections campaigns tackled community concerns such as the national identity, employment opportunities and resettlement, education, health, women and children rights, housing and improving the living conditions of the UAE nationals.
Elections were conducted via eVoting machines. Computer technologies were used to register and store candidates and voters' data and verify their identities.
Emirati women earned strong presence in the 2006 FNC elections by occupying 22.2 per cent of the total seats. For the first time, eight women were appointed and one was elected. This was one of the highest rates of women's representation in a country's parliament worldwide.
The second election in 2011
The second FNC election, which took place on 24 September 2011, advanced the political empowerment programme in the UAE. It has seen a substantial increase in participation of citizens in the process of choosing their representatives in the Federal National Council.
Key highlights of 2011 elections
The size of electoral college grew to 135,308 voters.
Amongst this, 469 including 85 women were contesting.
Voters included 54 per cent men and 46 per cent women.
Candidates used social media network for campaigns and interaction with voters.
Electronic voting systems were adopted in 13 polling stations across the UAE.
The minimum number of members of the electoral college was increased to 300 times the number of seats allotted for each emirate, with no maximum limit.
The third election in 2015
The third and the recent most election took place in October 2015.
Key highlights of 2015 elections
Growth of the electoral college to 224,279 voters, with women representing 48 per cent of total voters
Participation of 79,157 voters; there were 48,330 men and 30,827 women
An increase in voters' turnout to 35.29 per cent
330 candidates including 74 women from across the emirates contested the elections
Participation of the elderly; as using the electronic voting system has not been a challenge for them anymore
Increase in the number of polling stations across the country to 36
Introduction of early voting for three days during which 37,663 voters cast their votes. Voting was also held outside the UAE in 94 polling centres in the UAE diplomatic missions in most countries
One appeal was received from one of the candidates in Dubai against the validity of the preliminary results; NEC rejected the appeal due to lack of strong evidence.
Mechanism of the FNC
Chapter 4 of the UAE's Constitution outlines the functioning of the FNC. According to Article 78 of the Constitution as amended, the Council shall hold an annual ordinary session lasting not less than seven months. The Council sits from the third week of October, thus reducing the length of the parliamentary recess to coincide with the Cabinet's work and allowing further cooperation between the Government and the FNC. It may be called into extraordinary session whenever the need arises.
According to Article 86, the meetings of the FNC are open to the public but may be held in camera if so requested by the government's representative, the President of the Council or one-third of its members.
According to Article 87, the deliberations of the FNC shall not be valid unless at least a majority of its members are present. Resolutions shall be taken by an absolute majority of the votes of members present, except in cases where a special majority has been prescribed. In case the votes are equally divided, the side on which the President of the session supports shall prevail.
The work mechanism of FNC has created an exceptional relationship between federal authorities, upgraded the legislative system and strengthened the executive authorities while exercising its jurisdiction as mentioned in Articles 89 to 93.
Jurisdiction and role of the FNC
As explained in the beginning, the Constitution provides that the federal draft laws have to pass through the FNC first for review and recommendations. The FNC may amend original draft laws from the Cabinet to suit the needs of the citizens or specialised in-house committees may draft and amend laws and present it to the FNC for discussion and later forward them to the Cabinet for consideration and approval.
Article 92 of the UAE's Constitution empowers the FNC to discuss any general subject pertaining to the affairs of the Federation unless the Council of Ministers informs the Federal National Council that such discussion is contrary to the highest interests of the Federation and express its recommendations and may define the subjects for debate.
By virtue of Article 93, a member of the FNC may question ministers and request explanation of any matters within its jurisdiction, in accordance with the procedures prescribed in the internal regulations of the Council. The Prime Minister or his deputy or the competent Minister, shall answer questions addressed to them.
The FNC actively raises concerns and debates on a range of issues concerning the UAE's social, cultural and economic dimensions.
Key public concerns debated in the FNC
During the first 10 years, the council took a legislative role by passing 129 draft bills. The first being the law relating to the UAE emblem, which was passed on 12 April 1972.
FNC also issued draft bills on the official gazette, the Union's flag, the Armed Forces and authorities of ministries and ministers.
The Council passed draft law 9 that made private schools subject to the regulation of the Ministry of Education, followed by law 10 on academic scholarships.
Some of the general issues discussed by FNC included the evaluating public jobs and services, surpassing academic qualifications and filling public posts with qualified Emiratis.
FNC recommended the establishment of the Marriage Fund and passed the human trafficking law.
Recent issues debated by FNC
The FNC has raised several matters concerning the UAE in its session during 2016. Matters range from restriction on use of internet services to mixed marriages and protection of environment. Some of the matters are:
Licences for dog owners and banning private ownership of wild and exotic animals
The FNC has passed a draft law which aims to regulate the possession and trade of predatory, dangerous and semi-dangerous animals. Under this law, only zoos, wildlife parks, circuses, breeding and research centres would be allowed to keep wild or exotic animals. In addition, dog owners would need to buy a licence for their pets and keep them on a leash at all times when in public. Fines for failing to comply with the law would range from 10,000 to 700,000 AED and may be accompanied by a jail term and the animal would be confiscated.
Raising pensions and providing housing allowances
The FNC discussed raising pensions for police and military personnel who retired before 2008. The members also asked the providing housing allowances instead of housing loans to Emiratis above 60 who earn less than 15,000 AED per month.
The FNC is concerned about Emiratis marrying foreign women since 2012, where in one emirate the rate of such marriages reached 50 per cent. The FNC notes that the effects of this trend are beyond the identity dimensions. It reduces the chances of Emirati women marrying Emirati men and disturbs the lives of children if any in case of divorce between such couple. The FNC has formed a special committee to look at the reasons behind the trend.
UAE internet restrictions and telecoms services
The FNC debated internet restrictions such as the new block on voice calls via communication apps. One of FNC members debated that the UAE should have the same online rules as any developed country and all features should be open to everyone. FNC also raised the issue of the cost of telecom services and complaints from Emiratis about high prices.
The current elected FNC
The current FNC is the result of the latest elections in 2019.
The final list of the winners of the Federal National Council elections is as follows:
H. E. Saqr Ghobash is the current Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC). During the first session of the 17th legislative chapter of the FNC held on 14 November 2019, the members of the FNC unanimously elected Saqr Ghobash as Speaker of the Council. Saqr Ghobash served as the Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation (then Ministry of Labour) from 2008 to 2017.
Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi was the previous Speaker of the FNC. She was appointed in 2015 during the inauguration of the 16th FNC led by H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
FNC's achievements in figures
The FNC plays a vital role in connecting with people and strengthening the society by addressing their issues. From 12 February 1972 to 2 February 2016, the FNC has:
held 543 sessions
passed 577 draft laws
debated 302 general issues
raised 663 questions to government officials/ministers