Omanis hope first local vote is stepping stone toward change



Reuters

Published — Sunday 23 December 2012

Last update 23 December 2012 3:39 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

MUSCAT: Hoping for jobs and democratic change, voters in Oman cast ballots in their first municipal election yesterday, a sign of modest reform in response to protests inspired by the Arab Spring.
Its other elections are for the Shoura Council, a body that has some limited legislative powers. Increased democracy was a main demand of protesters in Omani cities during the Arab uprisings last year, along with jobs and an end to corruption.
“We feel the change is coming with this new election that will give us the opportunity to ask officials to openly explain their actions and admit their mistakes,” said voter Harib Khalfan in the Seeb district of Muscat. At the polling station in Seeb, set up in a schoolhouse, about 50 people queued to cast their ballots while others stood in the shade and discussed which way to vote.
Voting in the capital and nearby coastal town of Barka appeared quieter than during last year’s election for the Shoura Council. Activists from last year’s protest movement welcomed the election but cautioned that it was too early to tell whether it would lead to meaningful change. “It’s good. This is what we’ve been protesting for, but it’s too early to celebrate. Let’s wait and see,” said activist Ismail Al-Rasbi.
Some 1,475 candidates are seeking places on 192 local councils in the country of 2.8 million people. There were no reports of protests or other incidents across the country on Saturday afternoon. Each polling station Reuters visited had a police car parked outside to prevent trouble.
Protests erupted in several Omani towns early last year inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, as demonstrators blocked major roads and went on strike demanding better pay, more jobs, action against graft and some democratic changes. But Sultan Qaboos remains a popular figure in a country that was mostly undeveloped and faced war in its Dhofar region when he seized power from his father.
After the demonstrations, he swiftly reshuffled his Cabinet and the government promised to create thousands of jobs, announced plans for municipal polls and granted the Shoura Council some legislative power, with the right to approve or reject draft laws. The sultan, however, retains the final say.
Two of the Shoura Council members elected last year were activists from the industrial town of Sohar, the site of the biggest protests. Nine council members now sit in the 28-strong cabinet
“I am here to vote because I feel the elections will eventually create a government that will entirely consist of an elected cabinet of ministers,” said Maryam Shariff, a 32-year old university lecturer, as she waited to vote.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The ongoing Janadriyah national heritage and culture festival welcomed German government representatives as the guests of honor, marking a new era in Saudi-German ties.Detlef Daues, chief executive officer of a German business group, said: “I...
RIYADH: Highlighting the importance of caring, preservation and better maintenance of mosques located along highways in the Kingdom, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) and the Masajedna Foundation will honor excellence in...
ABHA: Women graduates in Asir say they are looking for private companies to hire them for online jobs which can be done at home.They asked businessmen to open new production lines for women in both factories and banks.The women said that this would c...
ABHA: Deviant groups have attempted to attract Saudi women to carry out terrorist operations by various means and in sinister ways.Many women have been found to have been recruited by terrorist groups inside and outside the Kingdom.Islamic scholar Mo...
RIYADH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal has written a patriotic poem to inspire Saudi troops at the southern borders.Titled, “I wish to be with you,” the poem infuses encouragement in the hearts and minds of troops guarding the borders in Najran,...
RIYADH: A delegation of senior officials from King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) visited the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) to discuss cooperation between the two institutions on sustainable energ...
RIYADH: The Office of the Education Department in eastern Taif has launched a program called “Fatin” which aims to protect students from intellectual threats around them.Fahhad Al-Zuibi, director at the Office for Education said, “The program aims to...
RIYADH: The Taif theater group won two awards when it participated recently in the ninth edition of a theatrical festival in Bahrain. The group, which represented the Kingdom in the theatrical festival, mounted a play production titled “Out of Contro...
RIYADH: Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar inaugurated the first festival for families with handicapped members at the King Fahd Cultural Center (KFCC) on Wednesday evening. The festival, which will last for three days, features a bazaar that displ...
RIYADH: A separate department to provide enhanced security to the Kingdom’s schools will be set up in all educational regions, Education Minister Ahmad Mohamed Al-Issa announced on Wednesday.Under the new directive, such departments will be establish...
RIYADH: Under a new ministerial ruling, payment of the minimum capital for industrial development is to be abolished.To support industrial development, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a ministerial decree eliminating the requirement of t...
JEDDAH: The father of a student at Imam Nafie Primary School in Taif’s Qumariya neighborhood is upset because the teacher who had hit his son in the face has gone unpunished.Fahad Muhaimeed Al-Nufaei was quoted as saying to local media that the teach...
JEDDAH: While the Ministry of Education sees privatization of education as a positive development, there are investors who express there cautious reluctance by saying there would be intense competition in the field and the returns might be less than...
JEDDAH: The University of Birmingham will welcome over 1,000 Saudi students from across the UK to an annual conference that will showcase their potential for groundbreaking work and research innovation.As academic host for 2016, the university will w...
JEDDAH: Over a billion tons of foods in the world finds its way to garbage containers and dumps, said Ahmad bin Amer Al-Harbi, head of the Volunteerism Unit.Al-Harbi said that in the Kingdom alone, about 75,000 tons of rice is wasted annually. In add...

Stay Connected

Facebook