Oman is a country located in the region of Western Asia. The protests during the Arab Spring of 2011 also reached Oman, but received less impact than in other parts of the Arab world. Sultan Qabus, who met the protests in meeting some of the demands, remained relatively popular with the population. At the beginning of 2020, the sultan died after a long illness, without chest compressions. His cousin Haitham bin Tariq, who was soon appointed new regent, has declared that he will stick to the policy pursued under the long reign of the representative.
In 2011, Oman was hit by the wave of protests in the Arab world that received authoritarian regimes on cases in North Africa. It was mainly young people who protested against unemployment and corruption, but also some intellectuals and activists joined and demanded more power for the lower house and unpopular ministers to resign. Although criticism of the regime became increasingly common on the Internet and in social media, it was rarely directly addressed to the Sultan, who had ruled the country since 1970.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Oman, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
The government responded to the displeasure of sharply raising unemployment benefits and the minimum wage for Omanis working in the private sector while promised to create 50,000 new jobs. The neighboring countries promised to provide ten billion dollars over a ten-year period to meet the need for new jobs, housing and better infrastructure.
As the protests increased, however, the Sultan carried out the largest government reform in 40 years. A third of the government, including about ten ministers accused of corruption, was allowed to go. But many protesters were also arrested by the police and 16 people received prison sentences that varied between six months and up to five years, including for blocking government buildings and roads.
In October 2011 elections for the lower house were held. Of the 1,300 candidates running for office, 77 were women, but only one woman was selected. Four of the new members had participated in the protests.
Among the 40 different decrees issued by the Sultan to try to prevent new protests included a decision to set up local advisory assemblies. In December 2012, elections were held for the first time.
In the summer of 2012, new protests erupted and strikes, among other things as a result of the regime’s slowness in implementing the reforms. The government now took a tougher line against regime critics, and between July and December, some 30 people were sentenced to prison sentences for everything from rioting and illegal demonstrations to offending the Sultan. However, all were released in an amnesty issued by the Sultan a year later along with the other prisoners who participated in the protests in 2011.
Sultan Qabu’s efforts to try to keep up with the people also turned out to be an attempt to fight corruption. Some government officials and directors were brought to trial in 2013–2014.
The order of belief in focus
Speculation as to who would succeed Sultan Qabus increased in 2014 when he was treated for cancer in Germany and then for the first time failed to appear on national day celebrations on November 18, which was also his birthday.
The childless sultan, born in 1940, refused to comment on the succession but was reported to have named the successor in a sealed envelope. When he passed away in January 2020, the royal family gathered behind Sultan’s cousin Haitham bin Tariq, who among other things has been Minister of Culture and is known for his sports interest.
Unless the Al Said family had agreed on a new regent within three days, according to the Constitution, a special defense council, composed of high-ranking representatives of the defense and state administration, would fulfill the Sultan’s desire for successors. However, a sealed letter opened after Qabu’s death revealed that Cousin Haitham was his choice.
Some judges have feared an open power struggle in the royal family and new unrest. Three cousins have usually been mentioned as likely successors, all sons of Oman’s first Prime Minister Sayyid Tariq bin Taimur (the sultan is now the head of government). When, in March 2017, Qabus appointed cousin Sayyid Assad bin Tariq as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of international cooperation, many interpreted it as having been designated as a successor to the throne.
The new regent, Haitham bin Tariq, who was also given the title of Sultan, gave a speech at his accession where he pledged to continue the government policy under Qabu’s long rule. Domestic politics has a target program that can be seen in the light of the demonstrations and the criticism of the power that occurred in connection with the Arab Spring: the motto Vision 2040 promises economic reforms aimed at reducing youth unemployment, among other things. Foreign policy has allowed Oman to behave neutrally. In several cases, Oman has acted as a mediator between neighboring countries and major powers with interests in the region.
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FACTS – POLITICS
Sultanate of Oman / Sultanate of Oman
monarchy (sultanate), unitary state
Head of State and Government
Haitham bin Tariq Al Said (2020–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
no political parties allowed
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
no political parties allowed
about 57% in the election to the lower house in 2015
in 2019 elections are held for the lower house of the country’s advisory assembly, majlis al-shura