Bahrain has been gripped by a three—week uprising and smaller rallies for greater political freedoms have taken place in Kuwait, Oman and even Saudi Arabia.

A group of citizens in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday petitioned the rulers to allow the people to elect parliament, signalling that the demands for leadership overhauls raging across the Middle East have also reached the oil—rich Gulf federation.

Bahrain has been gripped by a three—week uprising and smaller rallies for greater political freedoms have taken place in Kuwait, Oman and even Saudi Arabia.

There are no official opposition groups in the Emirates, which is a union of seven sheikdoms, and activists who advocate change have largely been idle during the region’s unprecedented political unrest.

The petition, signed by 130 pro—reform supporters, was a sign that Emiratis now too are acting on the inspiration by the Egyptian and Tunisian revolts. It demands the ruling system changes, gives them a say in the running of the country and a share in its oil wealth.

The petition was addressed to the Emirates’ president and the ruler of the oil—rich capital Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The petitioners demanded “a comprehensive reform of the parliamentary system” and “free elections for all citizens.”

They also called for constitutional reforms and the granting of legislative powers to an elected parliament.

The Emirates’ current parliament is based in Abu Dhabi. It serves as an advisory body. Its 40 members are either directly appointed by the ruling sheiks or elected by citizens, hand—picked by the rulers to vote.

Abu Dhabi’s Al Nahyan family controls the Emirates’ vast oil riches and holds most government positions. Al Nahyans also have considerable influence over the other six city—states, including the deeply indebted boomtown of Dubai.

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