"The UAE's [United Arab Emirates] relatively open borders and economy have won praise from advocates of expanded freedoms in the Middle East, but have also produced financial excesses, social ills such as human trafficking, and opportunity for UAE-based Iranian businesses to try to circumvent international sanctions. The social and economic freedoms have not translated into significant political change; the UAE government remains under the control of a small circle of leaders who allow citizen participation primarily through traditional methods of consensus-building. To date, these mechanisms, economic wealth, and reverence for established leaders have enabled the UAE to avoid wide-scale popular unrest. Since 2006, the government has increased formal popular participation in governance through a public selection process for half the membership of its consultative body, the Federal National Council (FNC). But, particularly since the Arab uprisings that began in 2011, there has been increased domestic criticism of the unchallenged power and privileges of the UAE ruling elite. The leadership has resisted any dramatic or rapid further opening of the political process and has suppressed Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamists and secular opposition activists, drawing criticism from human rights groups. Very few policy changes are anticipated should UAE President Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan leave the scene unexpectedly. He suffered a stroke on January 24, 2014, leaving his younger brother Shaykh Mohammad bin Zayid, who already had substantial governing responsibilities, largely in charge."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21852