According to the provisional constitution of the United Arab Emirates, promulgated on 2 December 1971, the executive branch of the UAE government consists of the Federal Supreme Council, headed by the president, and the Council of Ministers. The Federal Supreme Council, composed of the hereditary rulers of the seven emirates, has responsibility for formulation and supervision of all UAE policies, ratification of federal laws, and oversight of the union's budget. Sheikh Zayid bin Sultan al-Nahayyan, emir of Abu Dhabi, was elected president upon independence and has continuously been reelected to five-year terms ever since. The president is assisted by the Council of Ministers, or cabinet, headed by the prime minister. Sheikh Maktum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, has served as vice-president and prime minister since 1990, succeeding his father upon the latter's death. The member states are represented in the cabinet in numbers relative to their size and importance.
After extending the 1971 interim constitution at five-years intervals for 25 years, the Supreme Council and the Federal National Council approved a measure removing the term "interim" in 1996, making the document a permanent constitution.The Federal National Council, consisting of 40 delegates from the member emirates, appointed by their respective rulers for two-year terms, can question cabinet ministers and make recommendations to the Supreme Council, but it has no legislative powers. The constitution stipulates the distribution of the 40 seats as follows: Abu Dhabi and Dubai, 8 each; Sharjah and Ra's al-Khaimah, 6 each; and 'Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, and Fujairah, 4 each. The Supreme National Council meets only occasionally.
Most of the emirates are governed according to tribal traditions, including open meetings in which citizens express themselves directly to their rulers.