Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan said on Thursday that the Federal National Council, the closest body the country has to a parliament, will have half of its members elected and the other half appointed.
"In light of the changes and reforms our region is witnessing ... we decided to begin activating the National Assembly by electing half of its members," Sheikh Khalifa said in a speech to mark the UAE's national day.
The speech, carried on state news agency WAM, gave no date for the election to the council, whose 40 members are currently all appointed by the seven semi-autonomous emirates that make up the UAE.
UAE citizens are a small minority in the oil producing region, which has a population of 4 million.
Although there is no political dissent or Islamist violence in the UAE, it is the only country without elected bodies in the mainly conservative Gulf region after Saudi Arabia held municipal elections this year.