The FNC is a consultative body delegated the power to approve, amend or reject draft laws before they are submitted to the Federal Supreme Council or the President. It presents its judgment in the form of observations and recommendations which are not legally binding, but can influence draft legislation. These draft laws may be financial or related to the public purse, but they exclude the annual budget and closing account for the latter may only be deliberated upon, and any suggestion attached as a mere observation. The FNC may also deliberate over subjects pertaining to the Union if the Council of ministers does not object to that.
If a draft law is amended according to the recommendation of the FNC, the president can send the amended draft to the FNC. However, if the FNC keeps on modifying the amended draft against the Federal Supreme Council’s wishes, the latter can ratify it and the president then promulgates the legislation. The FNC may, following FNC procedures, demonstrate its objections by questioning the federal government represented in the FNC by the Prime Minister, his deputy or one member of the cabinet, on matters of direct concern.
Procedural functions performed by the FNC include:
- Election of the President of the FNC, 2 deputy presidents and 2 observers
- Organization of its general secretariat
- Preparation of its regulations
- Determination of the validity of membership if contested
The FNC’s annual session starts on the first week of November for a minimum period of 6 months. The sessions are open unless one third of its members, its president or a government representative decides the contrary. The presence of half the members forms the legal quorum, and decisions are taken according to a simple majority vote of the members present with the exception of some cases that require a special majority. Sessions are opened and ended by presidential decrees with the consent of the Council of Ministers. The President of the federation holds a speech officially opening the session and the FNC’s ‘observations and aspirations’ are expressed by an elected committee from the FNC as a reply to the president’s speech that summarizes the union’s progress. Approved by the Council, it is presented to the president who in return submits it to the Federal Supreme Council.
The FNC was initiated in 1971 in accordance with the constitutional provisions. Its first session was held on February 13, 1972. Starting this date until the 4th of July 2000, the FNC had approved around 270 draft laws and discussed around 218 issues related to government policy.
In 1977, the FNC joined the International Parliament Union and participated in the latter’s general conferences and activities in order to express the UAE’s policy and opinion in several regional and International issues.
On the Arabic and Islamic level, the FNC not only participated in many conferences held in various Arab capitals, but also hosted the 38th session of the Council of the Arab Parliaments Union in Abu Dhabi on February 2001.
Chapter 4 of the constitution adopted in July 18 1971 and made permanent in 1996 concluded the basic structure, functions and prerogatives of the FNC in 26 articles which were then elaborated by the FNC’s Internal Regulation.
Mode of Election
The FNC includes a total of 40 members unevenly distributed among the seven emirates according to population size and prosperity whereby Abu Dhabi and Dubai get eight members each, Sharjah and Ras Al-Khaimah six each, Ajman, Um Al Qaiwan and Fujairah four each. The members are designated by the rulers of the emirates on condition that they meet the requirements of emirate citizenship and permanent residency, 25 years of age, good reputed, exercising all civil rights, no criminal record, literate, and not occupying any governmental position. Membership expires after a period of 2 renewable years.
Members of the FNC do not represent their emirate alone, but the UAE people as a whole. They enjoy parliamentary immunity against censorship of opinion and penal procedures (excluding extreme crimes committed during session) during session unless permission of the FNC is granted.
The general assembly decides upon the dismissal of a member if he no longer fulfils membership conditions in a majority vote based on the suggestion of five of its members, and the acceptance of a member’s resignation.
Although structurally, the FNC is the federal legislature, its powers are only advisory for according to articles 60 and 100, the FNC is not empowered to propose legislation. It can only provide recommendations on issues referred to it by the Council of Ministers. Also, the Federal Supreme Council may ratify a law regardless of the FNC’s action. Similarly the President can issue a law without due consideration to the FNC. On the other hand, the Council of Ministers may also rule out the FNC’s right to discuss topics related to the federation if the former deems such a discussion to be against ‘the highest interest of the Union.’
Another right which is characteristic to parliaments and denied to the FNC is the right to call for a vote of confidence in the whole Council of ministers or in any of its members since these are collectively and individually responsible to the President and the Federal Supreme Council.
The president of the federation may, with the agreement of the FSC, dissolve the FNC by a decree only once for the same reason and not during the periods when martial law is implemented.
Since the rulers of the emirates select the FNC members from their trusted supporters, the FNC was found to enhance a sense of communication at the Federal level. Functionally, the FNC is closer to the traditional Diwan rather than a Parliament elected by the people.
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