Leap towards further democratization in Oman
“They will contribute significantly to the development of the governorates and give citizens, through their membership in the council, the right to participate in development plans and minimise centralisation, thus contributing to the development of the local economy. The governor said that the councils will create fair competition in the governorates”.
This statement was made recently by Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Sa’adi, The Governor of Dakhiliyah Central Province in the Sultanate of Oman. He believes that the move to set up municipal councils in the Sultanate’s governorates heralds a major shift in the working of municipal and parliamentary bodies and comes after careful study by the state authorities concerned.
The Royal Decree No. 16/2011 issued 26/10/2011 has defined in detail the tasks of the municipal councils, according to article (16) of the decree, and that a member of the municipal council will work in the space allocated to him, namely development and service only, according to the terms of service of most municipal councils in countries around the world applying this systems.
Al Sa’adi said there is no duplication between the work of the municipal council and the Shura Council, as the Shura is a higher council and all its members work under one dome and a chairman, and it is a legislative council empowered with regulatory and administrative authorities, whereas the municipal council is a developmental and service council which has nothing to do with legislation and regulating and operates within the framework of governorates only.
This event has its deep political significance It was a historic event.
A vast majority of 546,000 citizens, eligible to vote, picked 192 councillors from 1,476 candidates – of whom 46 women -- in the country’s first elections to various municipal councils. That it went off smoothly is not in doubt. Right from the start of the campaign till the moment the last ballots were cast at 7pm on Saturday evening, everything went according to plan.
When the voting ended, it showed that 188 men and 4 women won their seats in the Municipal Councils. The result was that there was all-round applause for the entire exercise. The media from the Middle East and other parts of the world were full of praise for the orderly manner in which the election process was conducted. The organising of the polls, the management of the polling stations and orderly conduct of the voters were all lauded.
For more than four decades ago, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said had focused on the needs and the welfare of the people. A number of policies were enunciated for their benefit. But the Sultan realised that knowing the requirements of the citizens would be impossible without consulting them. So, he began Meet-the-People programmes all over the country. In the next few weeks, the Sultan will embark on a new tour of the interiors. In tents, he will ascertain the views of the people on various crucial issues and their needs. And on this basis, detailed plans will be crafted. A large number of development programmes are charted out and implemented as a result of such consultations. Even ministries finalise their plans after officials in departments, specially formed to consult the people, submit reports of the requirements of various areas of the country. The process of consultative governance took another leap with elections to the Shura Council. The next step was elections to the various municipal councils. These are certainly historic steps that allowed all in the government, even those at the very top, to formulate policies and development plans in which the pulse of the people can be felt.
With the elections to the municipal councils – which followed the Shura Council poll – the Sultanate has entered a new era. The people now certainly feel that the government is theirs and it is entirely for their welfare. In future they will not feel left out of anything as the development process moves forward. In fact, they will feel being part of the process, which is overseen by His Majesty the Sultan with ample support from the Council of Ministers, the different departments of the government and their officials. To sum up, the Sultanate has entered another glorious phase.