Sultan Qaboos bin Said promised to bestow new powers on the
nation's assembly to tamp down Arab Spring protests, but ahead of
Oman's elections tomorrow, those powers remain undefined.
Seven months after Omanis took to the streets amid a wave of Arab
protests, they will be voting Oct. 15 in elections for the nation's
majlis al-shura assembly. But many don't see the election as a
vehicle to bring the change they were seeking, either because of
distrust of the candidates or skepticism about the assembly's
ability to wield influence in a system dominated by Sultan Qaboos
"I think it has a 50-50 percent chance to bring change," says
Mohammed Abdullah Said, a businessman from the capital Muscat.
"There is hope. But most [economic and political] development comes
from the government and His Majesty. He has more knowledge."
In March, as popular protests were sending tremors through
neighboring Bahrain and Yemen and Omanis had taken to the streets in
rare protests, Sultan bin Said announced that he would grant the
majlis al-shura (literally, consultative council) additional
authority as part of a package of measures designed to placate the
demands of demonstrators.
"These moves were aimed at calming the situation. They wanted to
prevent bigger protests [from developing]," says Salim Mohammed Al-
Khadory, a social policy specialist at Oman's Sultan Qaboos
With the help of an aid package from the Gulf Cooperation
Council, the sultan was largely successful in tamping down the
demonstrations. But the new powers promised for the majlis are as
yet unknown, though a spokesman says that the newly elected assembly
will be given those powers.
Record number of candidates
There is a record number of candidates seeking a seat in the
assembly this year, but at least some Omanis are skeptical that
assembly members and those who aspire to join them have a genuine
desire to improve the country.
"All the members have personal interests. The majlis is a game,"
says recent university graduate Azzan al-Hilali, adding that members
don't make a sincere effort to represent the people. "They earn
enough money to widen their homes, and after four years they're
According to Sayyida Tamadhir Al-Busaidi, director of the
elections department in the Interior Ministry, 1,133 candidates have
registered to compete for the 84 seats in Saturday's election.
But Mr. al-Hilali says the increase in numbers is only due to a
desire to hold higher government positions in the future.
"The reason why there are so many candidates is because they want
to become ministers," he says.
In an unprecedented move, the sultan selected seven former majlis
members to hold minister positions in a cabinet shakeup earlier in
the year. …