Freedom in the World
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United Arab Emirates
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In May 2009, authorities of the United Arab Emirates detained a member of the ruling family who was caught on videotape allegedly torturing an Afghani man. In July, the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal ruled to suspend the newspaper Emarat al-Yawm for an article critical of the ruling family. Meanwhile, the country’s economy struggled as a result of the global economic crisis. In December, Abu Dhabi provided Dubai a $10 billion bailout to help ease the latter’s debt crisis and stave off financial collapse.
In contrast to many of its neighbors, the UAE has achieved some success in diversifying its economy to reduce dependency on the petroleum sector. The country has built a leading free-trade zone in Dubai and a major manufacturing center in Sharjah, and it has invested resources to expand its tourism industry. In spite of these efforts, however, the UAE has suffered from the recent global economic downturn. Property values have plummeted, and thousands of foreigners who had been working in the real estate and financial sectors have fled the country or been laid off. In December, Dubai received a $10 billion bailout package from Abu Dhabi to help the state-owned Dubai World repay a $4.1 billion bond.
The UAE is not an electoral democracy. All decisions about political leadership rest with the dynastic rulers of the seven emirates, who form the Federal Supreme Council, the highest executive and legislative body in the country. The seven leaders select a president and vice president, and the president appoints a prime minister and cabinet. The UAE has a 40-member Federal National Council (FNC), half of which was elected for the first time in 2006 by a 6,689-member electoral college chosen by the seven rulers. The other half of the council is directly appointed by the government for two-year terms. UAE officials have said they intend to grant universal suffrage for the 2010 FNC elections. The council serves only as an advisory body, reviewing proposed laws and questioning federal government ministers.