Omanis will go to the polls on 4 October to vote for representatives in the 83-member consultative council (majlis al-shura). Voting has already taken place at embassies for Omanis living outside the sultanate, and turnout has been high. 'The council has only advisory powers, but in practice it partially exercises a legislative function by influencing the enactment and amendment of laws,' said Salem Ben Mohammad Al Abri, who served on council between 1991 and 2000. 'And things are progressing. Before, only services ministers could be questioned, whereas issues such as finance are now discussed,' he said. Omanis have realised that participation is now easier than ever before, and that access to members of the majlis is a right and something that should be taken advantage of. 'There is no ban on raising political issues in the council,' said Abdullah Ben Shwain Al-Hosni, undersecretary of the information ministry. 'But there is a conviction here that our priorities lie in development and giving citizens a dignified life.'
All Omanis over the age of 21 are eligible to vote - 822,000 out of a population of nearly 2 million. A total of 262,000 voter cards have already been issued, including around 100,000 for women, according to an election commission official.