Oman holds vote for shura council
ABU DHABI // Omanis voted in shura council elections on Sunday, the second since Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said gave the body greater powers in 2011.
Five hundred and ninety candidates, including 20 women, are vying for 85 seats on the council, which has a four-year term and is allowed to propose and revise legislation and call ministers for questioning.
“I expect to see a reasonable turnout,” said Ahmed Ali Al Mukhaini, an Omani political commentator in Muscat. “However, if we see a low turnout, then Omanis are expressing their dissatisfaction with the political process. This is to be confirmed when the results are announced.”
He said that candidates have campaigned on reforms, combating corruption and the inclusion of youth in policymaking and planning.
All Omanis over the age of 21 were eligible to take part in the vote, which began at 7am and ended at 7pm. There were 107 election centres around the country, according to the official Oman News Agency.
Sultan Qaboos granted the shura council, originally formed in 1991 as an advisory body, greater powers following Arab Spring unrest four years ago. The demonstrators were angry over corruption in government and business and wanted more of a role in public life.
Since the last elections in 2011, enthusiasm for the shura council has waned, with many Omanis saying the body has accomplished little. Instead of successfully proposing laws, some Omanis said the council focused on populist efforts such as trying to ban alcohol sales in the country. Critics also say that voting is carried out along tribal lines and that once elected candidates do not deliver on their campaign promises.
In an interview with The National in September, Tawfeeq Al Lawati, a council member who represented Muscat’s Mutrah district and is standing for re-election, pushed back against such accusations. He said the council had succeeded in getting the royalty that mineral companies pay to the government raised from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.
Before being enacted, legislation proposed by the council must be passed by the country’s state council, which is appointed by Sultan Qaboos. If passed, the legislation is sent to the sultan to be signed into law.
The last council divided its work among different committees, including health, economy, and services and social development.
Defence and foreign affairs have remained areas controlled by Sultan Qaboos, who has maintained polices that kept Oman out of regional conflict and allowed it to become an important mediator.
Oman’s mediation efforts contributed to the historic agreement reached in July between Iran and world powers over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Oman has also sought to facilitate talks to reach a political solution to the conflict in Yemen.
Updated: October 25, 2015 04:00 AM