Elections for Oman’s Consultative Council will be held today. As political parties are not allowed in Oman, 767 independents will compete for 85 seats.
Following the outbreak of protests in 2011 Arab Spring, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said allowed the Consultative Council to draft legislation, although the sultan is not obliged to promulgate them. As he acts in the capacity of the prime minister, foreign minister and head of finance and defence, Qaboos remains firmly in power.
Though the sultan has encouraged Omanis to participate in the election by giving voters a day off work, he disallowed candidates from discussing topics like religion and division of powers.
Oman’s debt to GDP hit 50% in 2018 and its budget deficit is forecast to reached 7%-11% over the next few years, putting the sultan is under pressure to maintain living standards. Indeed, Oman has faced protests as recent as January over ongoing high unemployment rates. With energy making up 75% of Oman’s exports earnings and the per barrel oil price falling $25 short of what Oman needs to balance its budget, expect the sultan to push for even stronger compliance on supply curbing.
The sultan promotion of today’s vote is intended to exemplify his democratic concessions, but do not expect Oman to make further moves towards democracy.
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Saira is an analyst in the Current Developments team, where she focuses her research on the Middle East and North Africa region.