Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Politics of Oman
Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said rules Oman with the aid of his ministers. His dynasty, the Al Sa'id, was founded about 250 years ago by Imam Ahmed bin Sa'id . The sultan is a direct descendant of the 19th century ruler, Sa'id bin Sultan, who first opened relations with the United States in 1833. The Sultanate has neither political parties nor legislature, although the bicameral representative bodies provide the government with advice.
Oman's judicial system traditionally has been based on the Shari'a--the Qur'anic laws and the oral teachings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Traditionally, Shari'a courts fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, Awqaf , and Islamic Affairs . Oman's first criminal code was not enacted until 1974. The current structure of the criminal court system was established in 1984 and consists of a magistrate court in the capital and four additional magistrate courts in Sohar , Sur , Salalah, and Nizwa. In the less-populated areas and among the nomadic bedouin, tribal custom often is the law.
Recent royal decrees have placed the entire court system--magistrates, commercial, shari'a and civil courts--under the control of the Ministry of Justice. An independent Office of the Public Prosecutor also has been created (formerly a part of the Royal Oman Police ), and a supreme court is under formation. Regional court complexes are envisioned to house the various courts, including the courts of first instance for criminal cases and Shariah cases (family law and inheritance).
Administratively, the populated regions are divided into 59 districts (wilayats), presided over by governors (walis) responsible for settling local disputes, collecting taxes, and maintaining peace. Most wilayats are small; an exception is the wilayat of Dhofar, which comprises the whole province. The wali of Dhofar is an important government figure, holding cabinet rank, while other walis operate under the guidance of the Ministry of Interior.
In November 1991, Sultan Qaboos established the Majlis Al--Shura (Consultative Council), which replaced the 10-year-old State Consultative Council , in an effort to systematize and broaden public participation in government. Representatives were chosen in the following manner: Local caucuses in each of the 59 districts sent forward the names of three nominees, whose credentials were reviewed by a cabinet committee. These names were then forwarded to the Sultan, who made the final selection. The Consultative Council serves as a conduit of information between the people and the government ministries. It is empowered to review drafts of economic and social legislation prepared by service ministries, such as communications and housing, and to provide recommendations. Service ministers also may be summoned before the Majlis to respond to representatives' questions. It has no authority in the areas of foreign affairs, defense, security, and finances.
Although Oman enjoys a high degree of internal stability, regional tensions in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war and the Iran-Iraq war continue to necessitate large defense expenditures. In 2001, Oman budgeted $2.4 billion for defense--about 33% of its gross domestic product. Oman maintains a small but professional and effective military, supplied mainly with British equipment in addition to items from the United States, France, and other countries. British officers, on loan or on contract to the Sultanate, help staff the armed forces, although a program of "Omanization" has steadily increased the proportion of Omani officers over the past several years.
After North and South Yemen merged in May 1990, Oman settled its border disputes with the new Republic of Yemen on October 1, 1992. The two neighbors have cooperative bilateral relations. Oman's borders with all neighbors are demarcated.
conventional long form: Sultanate of Oman
conventional short form: Oman
local long form: Saltanat Uman (Arabic: سلطنة عمان, Romanization: Salṭanah ‘Umān)
local short form: Uman (Arabic: عمان, Romanization: ‘Umān)
Data code: MU
Government type: monarchy
Capital: Muscat (Arabic: مسقط, Romanization: Masqaṭ)
Administrative divisions: 6 regions (mintaqat, singular - mintaqah) and 2 governorates* (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah) Ad Dakhiliyah, Al Batinah, Al Wusta, Ash Sharqiyah, Az Zahirah, Masqat, Musandam*, Zufar*; note - the US Embassy in Oman says that Masqat is a governorate
Independence: 1650 (expulsion of the Portuguese)
Constitution: none; note - on November 6 1996, Sultan QABOOS issued a royal decree promulgating a new Basic Law of Oman which, among other things, clarifies the royal succession, provides for a prime minister, bars ministers from holding interests in companies doing business with the government, establishes a bicameral legislature, and guarantees basic civil liberties for Omani citizens
Legal system: based on English common law and Islamic law; ultimate appeal to the monarch; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: in Oman's most recent elections in 1997, limited to approximately 50,000 Omanis chosen by the government to vote in elections for the Majlis ash-Shura
chief of state: Sultan and Prime Minister QABOOS bin Said Al Said (since July 23 1970); note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: Sultan and Prime Minister QABOOS bin Said Al Said (since 23 July 1970); note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the monarch
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary
bicameral Majlis Oman consists of an upper chamber or Majlis ad-Dawla (41 seats; members appointed by the monarch; has advisory powers only) and a lower chamber or Majlis ash-Shura (82 seats; members elected by limited suffrage, however, the monarch makes final selections and can negate election results; body has some limited power to propose legislation, but otherwise has only advisory powers)
elections: last held NA October 1997 (next to be held NA October 2000)
election results: NA
Judicial branch: Supreme Court, has non-Islamic judges; traditional Islamic judges and a nascent civil court system, administered by region
Political parties and leaders: none
International organization participation: ABEDA, AFESD, AL, AMF, ESCWA, FAO, G-77, GCC, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (applicant)
Flag description: three horizontal bands of white, red, and green of equal width with a broad, vertical, red band on the hoist side; the national emblem (a khanjar dagger in its sheath superimposed on two crossed swords in scabbards) in white is centered at the top of the vertical band
- See also : Oman
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