The current political system is a unique combination of old local traditions and a modern western political system.
Each emirate has an independent position within the Federation, its own local government and is led by a Ruler/Sheikh. Abu Dhabi, the capital, is ruled by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan since 2004, who is also the president of the UAE. Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is also the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE
The federal government consists of the Federal Supreme Council. This consists of the 7 hereditary Sheikhs of each Emirate and is the highest authority in the country.
Under the Federal Supreme Council comes its executive authority, The Cabinet or Council of Ministers. This consists of 24 ministers who are responsible for the federal government decision making. The posts are distributed among the seven emirates. The Cabinet manages all internal and foreign affairs.
The Federal National Council is the parliament that represents the general Emirati people and advises (but cannot overrule) the Supreme Council and the Cabinet. It consists of 40 members, 20 are elected by the citizens of the UAE and 20 are appointed by the rulers of each emirate. The members are also drawn proportionately from each emirate.
Further information on the UAE’s Government can be found on the Cabinet’s homepage: http://uaecabinet.ae/en/Pages/default.aspx#.UzQTMYU2O7o