Oman political risk assessment

23 February 2011

Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Saeed faces little threat to his rule

15 October 2011

Omanis went to the polls on 15 October to elect representatives to the country’s Shura Council. Of the 84 elected members, three were activists that participated in street protests earlier this year.

The Shura Council acts as an advisory body to the Sultan. Following the unrest at the start of the year, it has also been granted some legislative and regulatory powers. All of the members of the Shura Council are elected except the president.

Voter turnout was higher than expected, particularly among female Omanis. Only one female candidate was successfully elected.

31 March 2011

Oman’s army stepped in to end protests over private sector pay by storming two roundabouts in the industrial city of Sohar on 29 March, which had become a focal site for the demonstrations.

Protesters used heavy vehicles to block roads in the city in a bid to secure higher wages for private sector employees.

The demonstrations are said to have been sparked by a desire to match the wage hikes for public-sector employees.

Civil servants and government pensioners were previously granted pay increases in a decree from ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

18 March 2011

Sultan Qaboos bin Said fired Lieutenant General Malik bin Suleiman al-Maamary as Inspector General of the Police and Customs on 15 March.

Al-Maamary was blamed for failing to contain police forces that fired into a crowd on 27 February, killing one protester in Sohar. Lieutenant General Hassan bin Mohsin al-Shraiqi was named as his replacement.

This was the latest in a string of government reshuffles. The previous week, Sultan Qaboos ordered a major cabinet reshuffle after weeks of anti-government protests.

In a previous cabinet reshuffle, three senior officials were replaced as protesters continued to demand for more reforms and an end to corruption in the country. Activists continue to demand the sacking of more ministers for alleged corruption. Protests in Sohar have been largely peaceful.

10 March 2011

Demonstrators are demanding an end to corruption, better distribution of oil revenues and an elected council of ministers. Several protesters were killed in sporadic protests.

Government actions:

  • Minimum wage for nationals in the private sector raised by RO200 ($520) a month
  • Unemployment benefits of $390 a month
  • Cabinet reshuffle

Political Risk assessment

A GCC fund to offer financial aid to Oman and Bahrain has been mooted. The aim of introducing elected ministers rather than the removal of Sultan Qaboos means protests should not result in upheaval.

23 February 2011

After four decades in power, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Saeed faces little threat to his rule, having won support from much of the country’s population with his gradual modernisation of a traditional society.

Despite a gathering of 500 young Omanis on 18 February to demand higher wages, Muscat is likely to avoid the kinds of protests seen in neighbouring Yemen. However, Oman is not free from potentially destabilising problems, notably the lack of an obvious heir to the 70-year-old sultan, who has no children.

Universal suffrage was granted in 2003, but while the country does have some democracy, the elected Majlis al-Shura has only limited powers.

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