Oman to the polls

Omanis are going to the polls on Sunday to vote for a consultative council with limited powers. Sultan Qaboos holds all major government posts, but slightly expanded the powers of the Majlis al-Shura in 2011 after unprecedented social unrest during the Arab spring.

The number of candidates that are standing for election has almost halved from the last ballot four years ago, perhaps reflecting disappointment at the council’s ability to capitalise on its added authority.

Demonstrators in February 2011 demanded improved living conditions and more rights as well as the sacking of ministers they accused of corruption.
Two protesters were shot dead in clashes with security forces.
The discontent was not directed at the sultan personally, who is head of state, prime minister, foreign, defence, interior and finance minister.

The sultanate derives 79 percent of its revenues from petroleum, but with global prices down by roughly half since early 2014 it has projected a budget deficit this year of $6.47 billion. That represents about eight percent of gross domestic product.
Besides Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain are the only Arab states in the Gulf with parliaments elected by universal suffrage, but all three forbid political parties.