Muscat: The newly elected 84 members of Oman’s Majlis Shura will enjoy more powers than their predecessors following a Royal Decree on Wednesday night by Omani monarch Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed that made some amendments to the Basic Law of the State.

Under the new amendments, the Council of Ministers will now have to refer draft laws to the Shura Council, which has to approve or amend it within a maximum of three months from the date of referring.

Then it is referred to the State Council which has to approve or amend it. And, if the two councils disagree, they take vote to resolve the difference.

Only after an absolute majority approves, the State Council Chairman shall refer the draft to the Sultan along with the view of the two councils. In the case of any amendments by the Council of Oman on the draft law, the leader will return it to the council to reconsider the amendments and then should be submitted again to the Sultan.

The development projects and the annual budget of the state should be referred by the Council of Ministers to the Shura for discussion and recommendations followed by review by the State Council before being referred back to the Council of Ministers along with the recommendations of the two councils.

The Council of Ministers should inform the two councils about the recommendations which were not considered, along with reasons. The interpellation of any of the services ministers is possible, according to a request presented by not less than 15 members of the Shura Council, relating to violation of their legal authority, and the council shall discuss the issue and refer the results to the Sultan.

The ministers shall provide the Shura Council with the annual report regarding the stages of project implementation by their ministries, and the council can ask any of these ministers to provide a statement on some of the internal issues relating to the ministry.

The Chairman of the Shura, unlike in the past, will now be elected by the majority of 84 elected members in the house along with two deputies. In another far reaching decision the people’s elected representatives have been given a place among the decision makers to decide a successor to the throne.

The Ruling Family Council shall, within three days of the throne falling vacant, determine the successor to the throne. However, if they cannot agree on choice of a successor to the throne, then, the Defence Council together with chairmen of State Council, Shura Council, Supreme Court and two of its oldest deputies, shall confirm the appointment of the person designated by the Sultan in his letter to the Ruling Family Council.

The Chairmans of the State Council and Shura have been added to this process of deciding a successor to the throne. An activist, who was among the core group protesting and demanding amendments to the Basic Law and more powers to people, welcomed the new amendments.

“There are definitely some positives and we welcome the changes but a we still need to study the amendments in detail to determine how much concession has been given,” he said on the condition of anonymity.

Evolution of Oman's citizen body

The Majlis Al Shura in Oman has gradually evolved since it was first established through a Royal Decree in 1991. In the beginning, only a selected section of citizens voted and elected members to the Shura. That changed in 2003 when Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed opened the election process for every indigenous Omani citizen above the age of 21.

The elected Majlis member only had an advisory role to play without any powers to impact legislation or any government decisions. Before the 2007 elections, the Sultan also lifted restrictions on citizens contesting for seats in the Majlis. Now there are no restrictions and an individual can continue to contest and represent his area without any restrictions on the number of years.

A wilayat with a population of 30,000 and above was given the right to send two representatives. In the first 2003 elections 83 members were elected but since the 2007 elections, Shura seats have been increased to 84.

Every indigenous Omani citizen is eligible to contest Shura elections but has to be not less than 30 years old, have at least a general secondary school certificate, and of good social standing and reputation. A candidate must not have been convicted of a crime or indecency.