The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) consists of the six member states—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait. The main objective of the GCC is to strengthen the coordination, integration, and interconnection between the member states. The administrative structure of the GCC consists of three bodies: the Supreme Council, the Ministerial Council, and the Secretariat General. Citizens of the GCC countries may become members of the legislative branch of their country through elections or appointment by the ruler of the state. Conditions for membership in the legislative branches of the GCC countries are often cited in the constitutions of each state. The legislative branches of these countries share similar structures; however, the number of members of parliament vary. The main tasks of each legislative branch is to approve the general budget, pass laws, and question the performance of the executive branch. Bills may be initiated by the King/Prince, members of the Cabinet, or Parliament, and are then referred to the Parliament for discussion and voting. After the Parliament passes the bill, it must be approved by the King or Prince to become law. The King or the Prince has the authority to issue royal decrees that have the same effect as laws. Parliaments of the GCC countries use either simple majorities or absolute majorities to achieve a quorum in legislative sessions and to pass legislation.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) consists of the six member states, all monarchies: (1) the United Arab Emirates (UAE), (2) the Kingdom of Bahrain, (3) the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, (4) the Sultanate of Oman; (5) the State of Qatar; and (6) the State of Kuwait. The Council was established in Abu Dhabi, UAE in 1981; however, its headquarters are located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The main objective of the GCC is to strengthen the coordination, integration, and interconnection between member states by unifying laws and regulations in the fields of economic and financial affairs, commerce, customs and tariffs, communications, education, and security.
Three bodies constitute the administrative structure of the GCC: the Supreme Council, the Ministerial Council, and the Secretariat General. The Supreme Council, the highest authority of the GCC, is made up of heads of the member states. The Ministerial Council consists of the foreign ministers or other delegated ministers. The Supreme Council appoints the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General must have been a citizen of one of the GCC countries for at least three years.
This report discusses (1) how individuals become members of the legislative branches of the GCC member states; (2) conditions of membership; (3) the purpose and powers granted to those legislative branches by the constitutions of each country; and (4) the structure of those legislative branches. It also provides a comparative analysis of the legislative process of each of the GCC countries.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries
Source: Created by the Law Library of Congress.
A. Election versus Appointment
Citizens of the GCC countries may become members of their respective legislative branches through election or appointment by the ruler of the state. Each member represents a geographical area. There are no political parties involved in the parliamentary elections.
In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia all members of the legislative branch are appointed by the King. The process of parliamentary elections does not exist. Article 7 of Royal Decree No. A/91 of 1992, known as “the Law on Shura Council,” states that the King selects members of the Council if any vacancy is available. Fifty percent of the Council’s membership must be replaced by newly selected members every four years.
As opposed to Saudi Arabia, citizens of Kuwait and the UAE choose their members of Parliament through a regular process of parliamentary elections. According to article 80 of the Constitution of Kuwait, members of the National Assembly are to be elected directly by universal suffrage and secret ballot. The assembly has sixty-five members, including fifty members who are elected for four-year terms of office and fifteen cabinet ministers appointed by the Emir. Likewise, article 1 of Decree No. 4 of 2006, issued by the Supreme Council of the Federalism of the UAE, provides that members of the Federal National Council are to be elected through secret ballots. Based on article 72 of the UAE Constitution, the term of membership in the Council is two years counted from the date of the Council’s first meeting.
In other GCC countries such as Bahrain and Oman, members of the lower chamber are elected; however, members of the upper chamber are appointed by the King or the Sultan. To illustrate, article 42(2) of the 2002 Constitution of the Bahrain allows the King to invite the public for the elections of the members of the Council of Representatives (lower chamber). The term of Parliament is four calendar years counted from the date of its first meeting. This rule applies to all parliaments of the GCC. Article 33 of the Bahraini Constitution grants the King the right to appoint all members of the Shura Council the (upper chamber). Likewise, article 11 of Omani Royal Decree No. 86 of 1997 provides that members of the State Council (upper chamber) are appointed by royal decree. Article 21 of the Decree No. 86 stipulates that members of the Shura Council (lower chamber) are appointed via parliamentary elections. Every member of the Shura Council represents a geographic district. Members of the Shura Council are elected for a period of four years according to article 58bis 11 of the Omani Constitution.
Finally, based on article 77 of the Constitution of Qatar, the Prince must appoint fifteen members of the Shura Council and the rest are elected. However, based on news reports, the Prince currently appoints all members of the Council. Parliamentary elections have been postponed for decades. In June 2016, the Prince extended the term of the Shura Council for another three years, effectively postponing legislative elections until at least 2019.
B. Conditions of Membership
Conditions of membership in the legislative branch of the GCC countries are often established in the constitutions of each state. Candidates for parliamentary elections in the GCC countries must meet the following common requirements:
· They must not have dual citizenship
· They must be fluent in reading and writing the Arabic language
· They should not have been convicted by a final judgment in a crime involving moral turpitude or dishonesty
Other requirements may vary from one country to another. For instance, article 82 of Kuwait’s Constitution states that a candidate for National Assembly elections must fulfill the voter qualifications first in order to be qualified for membership in Parliament. Moreover, most countries of the GCC require members of Parliament to be not less than thirty years of age, except in the UAE where the Constitution allows persons to become candidates for parliamentary elections at the age of twenty. Finally, the Constitution of Sultanate Oman is the only Constitution in the GCC that bans active members of the security and military apparatus from membership in the State Council (the Majlis al Dawala, upper chamber) as well as the Shura Council (lower chamber).
III. Formation and Powers
A. Formation and Number of Members
Legislative branches of the GCC share a similar structure of a chairman and one or two deputies. The leadership of the parliament (the chairman and deputies) are elected by members. The number of members of Parliament in the GCC legislative branches varies. To illustrate, the Shura Council of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is composed of a Chairman, a Vice-Chair, and 150 members. There are twelve committees in the Council, covering the following issues: human rights, education, culture, information, health and social affairs, services and public utilities, foreign affairs, security, administration, Islamic affairs, economy and industry, and finance. Similar to Saudi Arabia, the Kuwaiti Parliament has one Chairman and a Deputy Chairman. However, the number of members of Parliament is much less in Kuwait than in Saudi Arabia; article 80 of the Kuwaiti Constitution provides that the national assembly of Kuwait shall have only fifty members.
Qatar also has a smaller number of members of Parliament. Pursuant to article 77 of the Constitution, the Shura Council consists of just forty-five members. In accordance with article 93, the Council elects a chairman and a vice-chair from among its members. Likewise, article 68 of the UAE Constitution states that the National Assembly of the Union shall be composed of forty members, divided among the UAE’s seven emirates as follows: Abu Dhabi – 8 seats; Dubai – 8 seats; Sharjah – 6 seats; Ras al-Khaimah – 6 seats; Ajman – 4 seats; Umm al-Quwain – 4 seats; and Fujairah – 4 seats. Based on article 84 of the UAE Constitution, the Council must elect a Chairman and two Vice-Chairs from among its members.
GCC countries such as Bahrain and Oman have bicameral legislative bodies, each of which has its own chairman and vice-chair. For example, in Bahrain the Consultative Council (Majlis al-Shura or Shura Council), which is the upper chamber of the Bahraini Parliament, has a Chairman and two Vice-Chairs.  Also, the Council of Representatives, the lower chamber, must select a Chair and two Vice-Chairs from among its members according to article 56 of Bahraini Constitution. Each chamber is composed of forty members, for a total of eighty members of Parliament.
Concerning Oman, its legislative branch (the Council of Oman) consists of two chambers: the Majlis al-Dawla (State Council) and Majlis al-Shura (Shura Council). The State Council has forty-eight members while the Shura Council has eighty-two members. Based on article 58bis 4 of the Omani Constitution, members of the State Council select a Chairman and two Vice-Chairs from among its members. Article 58bis 1 provides that members of the State Council must be selected by the Sultan from the following categories: former ministers; undersecretaries of ministries; former ambassadors; former senior judges; those who are known for their competence and experience in the fields of science, arts, and culture; professors of universities, colleges, and other institutions of higher education; dignitaries and businessmen; persons who have performed great services to the nation; and persons the Sultan chooses who do not fall under the previous categories. Similar to the State Council, in accordance with article 58bis 12, the Shura Council (lower chamber) has a Chairman and two Vice-Chairs who are selected from among its members.
The main tasks of the legislative branches of the GCC countries are to approve the general budget, pass laws, and question the performance of the executive branch. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, the Shura Council has the power to propose new legislation and amend existing legislation. The Council also has the right to request access to executive-branch documents.
Similarly, the Kuwaiti National Assembly has the authority to debate programs issued by the executive branch and pass laws. Article 99 of the Kuwaiti Constitution states that every member of the National Assembly is empowered to submit questions to the Prime Minister and ministers in order to elucidate matters falling within their competence. Additionally, according to article 101 of the Constitution, the Assembly has the power to take a no-confidence vote regarding any minister. A vote of no confidence in a minister may be initiated upon a petition signed by ten members of the National Assembly.
Concerning Qatar, the Advisory Council (Al-Shura Council) approves the budget and general policy issued by of the executive branch, and evaluates the performance of the Cabinet. Article 76 of the Qatari Constitution provides that the Advisory Council approves the state’s public budget and exercises the function of a “watchdog” over the executive branch of government. Furthermore, article 110 of the Constitution stipulates that every member of the Advisory Council has the right to interrogate the ministers. Article 111 allows a vote of no confidence in a specific minister to be discussed upon a request signed by fifteen members.
The UAE Federal National Council has the authority to debate laws. According to article 89 of the UAE Constitution, federal bills must be considered by the Federal National Council for review and recommendations. The Council also has the power to review and approve bilateral and international treaties. Based on article 91 of the Constitution, the executive branch is responsible for informing the Union National Council of international treaties and agreements concluded with other states and the various international organizations. The Federal National Council has the right to question ministers’ performance. Article 93 states that the Prime Minister or his Deputy, or the competent minister, must answer questions put to him by any member of the Council requesting an explanation of any matters within the Council’s jurisdiction. In March 2000, the Council established the Department of Research and Study to provide it with reports and studies on varies social and political issues.
The higher and lower chambers of the Bahraini National Assembly have similar responsibilities in terms of questioning ministers and members of the executive branch. Article 91 of the Bahraini Constitution allows members of the Shura Council and the Council of Representatives to direct questions at ministers to discuss matters and evaluate their performance. Article 67(a) stipulates that members of both chambers of the Bahraini National Assembly must work together on a no-confidence vote. Article 67(d) also provides that if the National Assembly decides by a two-thirds majority of members from both chambers that it is not possible to cooperate with the Prime Minister, the matter is submitted to the King for a decision.
Finally, both chambers of the Council of Oman (the State Council and the Shura Council) must work jointly to pass bills related to the general budget and economic development. Article 58bis 40 of the Constitution of Oman requires draft economic development plans and annual general budgets of the state to be referred by the Cabinet to both the State Council and the Majlis al-Shura for discussion and recommendations. The Omani Shura Council is the only chamber that has legislative oversight of the executive branch. According to article 58bis 43, ministers may be subject to interpellation upon the request of fifteen members of the Shura Council. Ministers are also required, under article 58bis 44, to submit an annual report to the Shura Council on the implementation stages of public projects carried out by their ministries. The same article authorizes members of the Shura Council to send questions to the Cabinet concerning issues or problems within its competence.
IV. Legislative Process
A. How a Bill Becomes Law
In the GCC countries, bills may be introduced by the King/Prince, members of Cabinet, or the Parliament. They are referred to Parliament for discussion and voting. After Parliament passes a bill, it must be approved by the King/Prince to become a law. The King or Prince also has the authority to issue royal decrees that have the same effect as laws. Country details are provided below. See also Appendices 1–6 for a visual representation of the legislative processes.
Article 71 of the Constitution of Kuwait grants the Prince the right to issue royal decrees during the period when the National Assembly is dissolved. Such royal decrees have the force of law. The decrees must be submitted to the National Assembly at its first meeting to approve them.
Article 79 requires that no bill may become a law unless the National Assembly passes it. Members of the National Assembly, including members of the cabinet have the right, under article 109 of the Constitution, to propose a bill. Additionally, article 65 authorizes the Prince not only to propose bills and issue royal decrees that promulgate laws, but also to veto proposed bills. Article 178 requires laws to be published in the Official Gazette before they become effective. (See App. 1)
Similarly, members of the Shura Council of Qatar have the right to propose bills. Article 105 of the Constitution of Qatar grants members of the Council the right to introduce bills. Every bill is referred to the relevant committee in the Council for further study. The article continues by stating that if the Council decides to accept the bill, it will refer it to the Cabinet for further examination. If the bill receives the approval of the Cabinet, it will be returned to the Council for voting. Under article 106 of the Constitution, every bill passed by the Shura Council must be submitted to the Prince for approval. If the Prince decides not to approve the bill, he returns it to the Council within three months from the date of its submission, together with the reasons for his disapproval. Article 121 of the Constitution also gives members of the Cabinet the right to propose draft legislation. It states that bills proposed by the Cabinet are submitted to the Shura Council to be debated among its members. If the Council approves, the bill is referred to the Prince for ratification and promulgation. (See App. 2)
Due to its federalist governing system, the legislative process in the UAE is different from other countries in the GCC. Under the title “Initiation of General Legislation,” article 110 of the Constitution of the UAE stipulates that a bill becomes a law after the adoption of the following procedures:
(1) The Council of Ministers (Cabinet) prepares draft legislation and submits it to the Federal National Council (the Parliament);
(2) After approval by the Federal National Council, the Council of Ministers submits the bill to the President of the Union for his agreement and also presents it to the Supreme Council for its ratification; and
(3) The President of the Union signs and promulgates the law after ratification by the Supreme Council.
Article 110(3) provides that if the Federal National Council inserts any amendment into the bill and this amendment is not acceptable to the President of the Union or the Supreme Council, the President of the Union or the Supreme Council must refer it back to the Federal National Council. Furthermore, article 113 of the Constitution grants the President of the Union the authority to work jointly with the Council of Ministers to promulgate necessary laws in the form of decrees, which have the force of law. Such decree-laws must be submitted to the Supreme Council within a week for assent or rejection. In the case of assent, the force of law must be confirmed and the Federal National Council must be informed accordingly. In the event of disapproval by the Supreme Council, such decree promulgating a law ceases to have the force of law. (See App. 3)
4. Saudi Arabia
Concerning the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, article 23 of the Law on the Shura Council grants the Council’s Speaker the right to submit bills proposed by the Council to the King. Under article 17 of the same law every legislative proposal or amendment must be approved by both the Shura Council and the Council of Ministers before receiving the approval of the King. If the views of both councils vary on a particular issue, the proposal/amendment must be returned to the Shura Council to decide whatever it deems appropriate, and the Council thereafter sends the bill to the King, who makes the final decision. (See App. 4)
In the Kingdom of Bahrain, as in other GCC countries, members of both houses of Parliament may initiate bills. A bill that is initiated by a member and rejected by the any of the chambers may not be reintroduced during the same session. Article 70 of the Constitution stipulates that no law shall be promulgated unless approved by both the Shura Council and Council of Representatives (the National Assembly), and ratified by the King. According to article 86, after a bill is approved by both chambers, the Chairman of the Shura Council refers it to the Prime Minister, who in turn submits it to the King for ratification. (See App. 5)
Oman has a similar legislative process as Bahrain. Under article 58bis 36 of the Constitution of Oman, members of the bicameral Majlis Oman (the Council of Oman), which consists of the State Council (upper chamber) and the Shura Council (lower chamber), may propose draft legislation and refer it to the Cabinet for review. Article 58bis 35 also provides that bills prepared by the Cabinet must be referred to the Majlis Oman for approval or amendment. Upon approval by both chambers, a bill must be directly submitted to the Sultan to be promulgated.
The Constitution of Oman sets forth a specific procedural period concerning the passage of any bill. According to article 58bis 37, bills must be referred by the Council of Ministers to the Shura Council, which must decide on the draft by approval or amendment within three months from the date of referral. Similarly, the State Council must debate the bill within forty-five days from the date of referral. If one of the legislative chambers does not approve a bill, the aforementioned article provides that the two chambers must hold a joint meeting under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the State Council to discuss the differences between them in order to pass a final bill.
Under the Omani Constitution, the Sultan has the authority to issue royal decrees that have the force of law. Article 58bis 39 stipulates that the Sultan may promulgate Royal Decrees that have the force of law between the sessions of the Majlis Oman and while the Shura Council is dissolved and the sessions of the State Council are suspended. (See App. 6)
B. Quorum and Voting Majority
Parliaments of the GCC countries use either a simple majority or an absolute majority to achieve a quorum in legislative sessions. They also adopt both types of majorities to pass legislation. For example, article 16 of Royal Decree No. A/198 states that meetings of the Shura Council of Saudi Arabia are not valid without a quorum of at least two-thirds of its members, including the Speaker of the Council or whoever may deputize him. Resolutions must pass with the members’ majority approval.
Under article 97 of the Kuwaiti Constitution, the presence of more than half of the members of the National Assembly is necessary for a quorum. Laws must also pass by an “absolute majority,” meaning two-thirds of the members present in the GCC countries. Where votes end in a tie, the matter debated must be deemed rejected.
In order to achieve a quorum in the legislative sessions of the Advisory Council of Qatar, the majority of its members must attend, including the President or his Deputy, based on article 99 of the Constitution of Qatar. If there is no quorum, the session is adjourned to the next session. Moreover, an absolute majority is required under article 100 of the Constitution to pass a bill. It stipulates that the Council’s decisions are issued by an absolute majority (two-thirds) of the attending members.
Likewise, according to article 59 of the Constitution of Bahrain, a quorum is achieved in meetings of the National Assembly of Bahrain via the presence of more than half of its members. Regulations are passed by an absolute majority vote of the members present.
While regulations must pass by an absolute majority of votes, the member’s meetings of the Federal National Council of the UAE achieve a quorum via a simple majority. Article 87 of the UAE Constitution provides that deliberations of the Council are invalid unless at least a majority of its members are present. It continues by stating that decisions of the Council must be made by an absolute majority of the votes of members present. If votes are equally divided, the side that the Chairman of the session supports prevails.
A simple majority is also required to achieve a quorum in meetings of the Omani Council. Members of both the Omani State Council and Shura Council must be present in those meetings, as provided by article 58bis 32 of the Constitution. If the required majority is not achieved, the meeting must be postponed. The decisions of the Majlis Al Dawla and Majlis al-Shura must be adopted by an absolute majority of the members present. In the case of a tie vote, the side that includes the Chairman prevails.
Prepared by George Sadek
Senior Legal Analyst
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 Id. art. 13.
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 Ahmed Aly Khedr, Kuwait’s Legal System and Legal Research, GlobaLex (Jan./Feb. 2010), http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Kuwait.html#administrativestructureofnationassembly, archived at https://perma.cc/8NDL-H3N6.
 Decree No. 4 of 2006 of the Supreme Council of the UAE Concerning the Method of Selecting the Representatives of the Federal National Council, art. 1, issued Aug. 10, 2006, available at http://qistas.com/legislations/uae/ view/22266 (in Arabic), archived at https://perma.cc/7JHK-2R36.
 Constitution of the United Arab Emirates of 1971, as amended in 2004, art. 72, available at https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/United_Arab_Emirates_2004.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/TU9K-TNY7.
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 Id. art. 33.
 Royal Decree 86 of 1997, art. 11, issued Dec. 16, 1997, available on the official website of the Omani Shura Council, at http://www.oit.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/83508/92277/F2092950230/OMN83508.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/27PK-CXCW.
 Id. art. 21.
 Royal Decree No. 101/96 promulgating the Constitution of Oman of 1996, art. 58bis 11, Al-Jaridah Al-Rasmiyah vol. 587, available at https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Oman_2011.pdf?lang=en, archived at https://perma.cc/WQ2A-NWMV.
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 Shabina S. Khatri, Legislative Elections in Qatar Postponed until At Least 2019, Doha News (June 17, 2016), https://dohanews.co/legislative-elections-in-qatar-postponed-until-at-least-2019/, archived at https://perma.cc/PLD8-JV2W.
 Constitution of Qatar art. 80; Constitution of Kuwait art. 82; Constitution of Oman art. 58bis 2; Constitution of the UAE art. 70; Constitution of Bahrain art. 57; and Shura Council Law (Saudi Arabia) art. 4.
 Constitution of Kuwait art. 82.
 Constitution of the UAE art. 70(2).
 Constitution of Oman art. 58bis 2.
 Id. art. 58bis 10.
 Saudi Royal Decree on Shura Council art. 3.
 About Saudi Arabia: Majlis Al-Shura (Consultative Council), Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, https://www.saudiembassy.net/majlis-al-shura-consultative-council (last visited Dec. 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/N7KA-ARKD.
 Constitution of Kuwait art. 92.
 Id. art. 80.
 Constitution of Qatar art. 77.
 Id. art. 93.
 Constitution of the UAE art. 68.
 Id. art. 84.
 Constitution of Bahrain art. 60.
 Id. art. 56.
 Id. art. 52.
 Khalil Mechantaf, The Legal System and Research in the Sultanate of Oman, GlobaLex (July 2010), available at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Oman.html#theomancouncil, archived at https://perma.cc/FWL5-5DM2.
 Constitution of Oman art. 58bis 4.
 Id. art. 58bis 1.
 Id. art. 58bis 12.
 Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, supra 23, para. 4.
 Constitution of Kuwait art. 99.
 Id. art. 101.
 Constitution of Qatar art. 76.
 Id. art. 110.
 Id. art. 111.
 Constitution of the UAE art. 89.
 Id. art. 91.
 Id. art. 93.
 What is the Federal National Council?, Gulf News, Government (May 3, 2009), http://gulfnews.com/news/ uae/government/what-is-the-federal-national-council-1.266221, archived at https://perma.cc/4C34-TH54.
 Constitution of Bahrain art. 91.
 Id. art. 67(a).
 Id. art. 67(d).
 Constitution of Oman art. 58.
 Id. art. 58bis 40.
 Id. art. 58bis 43.
 Id. art. 58bis 44.
 Constitution of Kuwait art. 79.
 Id. art. 109.
 Id. art. 178.
 Constitution of Qatar art. 105.
 Id. art. 106.
 Id. art. 121.
 The Supreme Council of the Union is the board of the Union. It consists of the rulers of the nine emirates making up the federation. It is the highest authority of the Union. Constitution of the UAE art. 46.
 Id. art. 110.
 Id. art. 110(3)
 Id. art. 113
 Law on Shura Council of Saudi Arabia art. 23.
 Id. art. 17.
 Id. art. 17(2).
 Constitution of Bahrain art. 71.
 Id. art. 70.
 Id. art. 86.
 Constitution of Oman art. 58bis 36.
 Id. art. 58bis 35.
 Id. art. 58bis 37.
 Id. art. 58bis 39.
 Law on Shura Council art. 16.
 Constitution of Kuwait art. 66.
 Constitution of Qatar art. 99.
 Id. art. 100.
 Constitution of Bahrain art. 59.
 Constitution of the UAE art. 87.
 Constitution of Oman art. 58bis 32.
 Id. art. 58bis 33.
Last Updated: 08/06/2019