Consultative Council Elections, 15 October 2011
Marc Valeri | Jan 12 2012
Oman’s Consultative Council elections were the third with universal suffrage to be held in the country, after those of 2003 and 2007. They took place following popular protests earlier in the year - the widest the Sultanate had experienced since the end of the Dhofar war in the 1970s. In a country where political associations are banned and civil society is notably less organised than in Bahrain or Kuwait, the ‘Omani Spring' was marked by the death of two protesters in the Northern town of Sohar in February and April. Repeated demonstrations and a series of two month-long peaceful sit-ins all over Oman called for pro-active measures to curb endemic unemployment and corruption among top officials, but also for the promulgation of a constitution replacing the current Basic Law and leading to a constitutional monarchy. These demands expressed the depth of the social and economic malaise of a country where 48 per cent of the nationals are under 20. In an initial attempt to appease the protests, arbitrary gestures of goodwill (an increase of the minimum salary by 43 per cent in mid-February; Sultan Qaboos’ orders to establish a monthly allowance for individuals registered as job seekers and to create 50,000 new public sector jobs in late February) preceded two reshuffles of the Cabinet in early March and the removal of long-serving ministers widely perceived as embodying corruption and obstacles to reform. The Sultan also announced his intention to grant the bicameral Council of Oman greater legislative and regulatory powers.