NEW DAWN OF DEMOCRACY

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7th Oman Majlis Ash’shura

Zahid Malik in Oman

Monday, October 31, 2011 – Muscat—Khalid bin Hilal al Ma’awali, representative of the Wilayat of Wadi Al Ma’awil, was yesterday elected as the chairman of the 7th term of the Majlis Ash’shura at an extraordinary session.

The historic session, where the members elected their chairman for the first time, was held under the directives of His MajestySultan Qaboos following Royal Decree No 99/2011, Article 85 (bis 12).

The session, which was presided over by oldest member Salim bin Ali al Khatheri and attended by 83 out of 84 members, also saw the election of two deputies.

During the session, the recently elected Majlis members took oath.

While Khalid al Ma’awali was elected as president, Salim bin Ali al Ka’abi and Abdullah bin Khalifa al Maja’aly were elected as first deputy and second deputy respectively.

The chairman and two deputies were elected in a secret ballot.

The election was supervised by the Majlis Ash’shura General Secretariat while a committee comprising assistant trustees and legal experts monitored the election process. The local and international media was allowed to cover the historic elections.

A number of noteworthy features distinguished the recent landmark polls from the previous editions of the ust national consultative body.

For one, members elected to the 7th Majlis term are set to enjoy far more legislative and audit prerogatives than their predecessors. For another, the balloting process itself has been modernised to ensure a high degree of efficiency — a move necessitated by a desire to demonstrate to all concerned that the process is both transparent and equitable.

Indeed, elections to the 7th Majlis are historic in many respects. For the first time in the decades-long history of the shura process in the Sultanate, members can lay claim to being truly elected representatives of their people.

Observers have billed this upgrade as a momentous transformational shift that dramatically advances the democratic process in the Sultanate of Oman.

This empowerment of the new Majlis Ash’shura has been made possible by the Royal Directives of His Majesty the Sultan through the promulgation of Royal Decree 39/2011. Issued in March, the decree vests the Council of Oman, comprising the Majlis Addawla and Majlis Ash’shura, with tangible legislative and audit powers. The nature and extent of these powers have been deliberated by an eminent panel of experts.

But with new powers come added responsibilities. Consequently, every member of the 7th Majlis Ash’shura will see themselves not simply as the bridge that links their people with the government, but more so, as partners themselves in governance.

Unlike their peers elected to past Majlis bodies, the 7th term will wield a set of powers granted to them by His Majesty on behalf ofthe Omani people. Elected members

will be called upon to exercise these powers for the greater good of the country and its people.

Another distinguishing feature that sets the 7th Majlis term apart from the previous bodies is the use of modern technology to ensure a smooth, convenient and tamper-proof balloting process. The process of introducing eligible voters to the e-balloting system began nearly a year ago.

Not surprisingly, interest in the 7th Majlis term has been unprecedented, not only from prospective candidates but voters alike. This is reflected in the record turnout in registered voters, which has soared 30 per cent to 522,093 male and female voters this year, compared with around 388,000 in the 6th term.