|On 25 September 2011, the Committee for Consultative Council Elections announced that elections would be held on 15 October.
The previous elections to the Consultative Council held in October 2007 were the second to be open to all citizens aged 21 years and above. Prior to 2002, only one in four citizens (selected by community and tribal leaders) had been able to vote. Since political parties are banned in Oman, all 632 candidates - including 21 women - ran as independents. No women were elected for the first time in 13 years. In November, the sole woman in the outgoing legislature was appointed to the 70-member State Council - the upper chamber of parliament - along with 13 other women.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said - who acceded to power on 23 July 1970 - is the de facto prime minister and also controls the foreign affairs and defence portfolios. The Consultative Council was established in 1991 to advise the government on economic and social matters. Three years later, Oman became the first Gulf State to give women the right to vote and run for public office.
Following the street protests which toppled the long-serving presidents in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011, several demonstrations demanding more jobs and political reform were staged in Oman. In Sohar, an industrial port city, protesters blocked the main road connecting the capital Muscat to the United Arab Emirates. Up to five people were killed in clashes with security forces. Protesters demanded inter alia salary increases and the removal of "corrupt" ministers.
Following the protests, the government raised the minimum wage to OR 200 (about US$ 500) a month. Sultan Qaboos announced a US$ 2.6 billion spending package, the creation of 50,000 public-sector jobs (mainly in the military), and promised to give parliament greater legislative powers. By April, he had issued 40 royal decrees instituting political reforms. They included making the public prosecution department independent and expanding the powers of the State audit body.
More than 1,300 candidates - including several activists of the February protests - were vying for seats in 2011. They included 76 women, a sharp rise from 21 in 2007. As in previous elections, all candidates stood as independents.
Public campaigning was allowed but no public meetings were permitted. Many candidates used newspaper advertisements, street posters and electronic media to publicize their candidatures. Several activists of the February protests promised to improve living standards and create more jobs.
A little more than 60 per cent of the country's 860,000 eligible voters registered in 2011. Over 76 per cent of the 522,000 registered voters turned out in 2011, up from 62 per cent of the 388,000 registered voters in 2007.
Despite the significant rise in the number of candidatures, only one woman was elected. Three activists of the February 2011 protests were elected.
Shortly after polling day, on 19 October, Sultan Qaboos issued a royal decree amending several provisions of the Basic Law of the State, replacing the entire Chapter on parliament (Majlis). Members of both chambers may henceforth propose laws and question ministers. The Chairman of the Consultative Council and two Deputy Chairpersons of both chambers will henceforth be elected from among their members, posts previously appointed by the Sultan. However, the Sultan retains the power to dissolve parliament and issue royal decrees that have the force of the law when parliament is in recess or dissolved.
On 18 October, Sultan Qaboos issued a royal decree appointing 83 members to the State Council. They included 15 women.
On 29 October, the newly elected Consultative Council held an extraordinary session. Mr. Khalid bin Hilal Al Mawali became its first elected Chairman.
On 31 October, the State Council was convened for the first time under the chairmanship of Mr. Yehya Bin Mahfooz Al-Manthari. On 2 November, Mr. Sayyid Said bin Hilal Al Busaidi was elected First Deputy Chairman, while Sheikh Khalid bin Sultan bin Saif Al Hosani was elected Second Deputy Chairman.