Omanis announce electoral reforms; Oman's Minister of Interior has announced a series of measures which will make a significant contribution to promoting increased democracy in the sultanate.

Author:Lancaster, Pat
Position:Current Affairs

Oman has taken an important step towards democracy with the introduction of a series of new voting measures that will allow Omanis to have an increased influence in the way their country is run. At a press conference held at the Muscat Press Club in February, Interior Minister Sayyid Saud Al Busaidy described the orders of the country's ruler, Sultan Qaboos to grant voting rights to all Omani citizens of 21 years of age and above, in the next Majlis Ash'shura elections to be held in October.

The decision is recognised as part of Oman's declared policy of ensuring all Omanis have an opportunity to take place in the nation building process. "Oman is keen to involve all its citizens in decision making", a local journalist told The Middle East. "There have been a number of directives introduced to make the ordinary man and woman in the street feel they have more of a say in what goes on in their country. Some years ago there was criticism that too much political and economic power was concentrated in the hands of just a few of Oman's leading families. However, certain instruments have been introduced to ensure a much higher degree of power sharing and this latest decision by his majesty is another important milestone along the way to democracy," the Omani journalist added.

The Interior Minister noted that voter registration will start at the beginning of March, with nominations for candidacy starting from 29 March. Over 820,000 voters are expected to participate.

The new procedures will involve upgrading the judicial supervision of elections which will be overseen by a committee, including the Under Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and two deputies of the President of Oman's Supreme Court.

In recognition of the vital part they play in all areas of life in the sultanate, women will henceforth enjoy equal rights with men to stand for election in wiliyats, or voting constituencies, across the country. "There will be no difference in the position of men and women," Mr Al Busaidy confirmed. "There will be no limit on the number of women who can take part in future elections, either as voters or as candidates. Women will be offered the same opportunities to campaign as those enjoyed by men. They will be free to discuss their ideas and policies with the electorate in the Sabla (communal meeting places), at Omani womens organisations, in the homes of voters or anywhere else. They will have all the freedoms that men have," the Minister confirmed...

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