Exclusion of Candidates from the Shura Council Elections without Providing Reasons.
The OCHR-Oman condemns the exclusion by the Omani Ministry of Interior of several candidates from running for the upcoming elections for membership in the Shura Council in its tenth session. Among those excluded are Awad Al-Suwaifi, Majid Al-Rahili, and a former member of the eighth session, Ahmed Al-Hadabi. This election is scheduled to be held in October 2023. The OCHR considers this exclusion a blatant violation of fundamental human rights and the principles of democracy, which should be the cornerstone of any political system claiming legitimacy and justice. The OCHR emphasises that the right to participate in elections and nominate oneself for political positions is a fundamental right for every citizen, forming the foundation upon which the democratic system is built. Every individual should have a fair and equal opportunity to compete, express their opinions, and contribute to shaping the future of the country.
The Ministry of Interior issued Ministerial Decision No. (15/2023), which set January 29, 2023, as the first day for candidate registration for the elections, with February 16, 2023, as the last day. According to Article 34 of the Shura Council Elections Law, the candidate must meet the following criteria:
- Hold Omani citizenship.
- Must be registered in the relevant electoral district.
- Must be at least 30 years old.
- The candidate must not have previously been finally convicted of a criminal offence or involved in a crime that undermines honour or trustworthiness, even if their reputation has been restored.
- Must have completed their general secondary education or its equivalent.
- Must have a good reputation and conduct.
- Must not be affiliated with a security or military entity.
The Shura Council is one of the components of the Council of Oman (Majlis Oman), alongside the State Council. It consists of 84 members representing all the governorates and cities of Oman. Each member serves a four-year term that can be renewed. It is important to note that all council members are nominated by the citizens every four years. While the council’s official description assigns it legislative tasks, its role is primarily advisory. The other component of the Council of Oman, the State Council, has a broader role as the upper chamber of the legislature, and all its members are appointed by royal decree.
According to the information received by the OCHR, those who were excluded were not officially contacted by the responsible authority for the elections, the Ministry of Interior, and the reasons for their exclusion were not clarified. It is worth noting that the excluded individuals do not have the right to appeal the decision of the Ministry of Interior or resort to any national courts, as the ministry is sovereign and the courts do not have the authority to intervene in its decisions.
Despite Oman’s ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in April 2020 through Royal Decree No. 46/2020, political participation remains very limited, and the political system is non-democratic and non-elective. Furthermore, Article 116 of the Omani Penal Code criminalises the establishment of political parties, associations, and human rights organisations. The Freedom House organisation classified Oman as “not free” in its latest report: Freedom in The World, and it rated political rights in Oman as very low, with a score of 6 out of 40.
The OCHR concludes that the exclusion was made on security grounds by the Internal Security (the Intelligence (Mukhabarat)), which are typically not mentioned or clarified. The OCHR believes that the exclusion of the mentioned candidates or others who have been approved to run under the previously mentioned article of the election law raises significant concerns about respecting the principles of democracy and equality in the electoral process. In light of this, the OCHR calls on the relevant authorities to reconsider their decision and provide transparent and fair justifications for the exclusion imposed on these candidates. Transparency and fairness must be ensured in all aspects of the electoral process to guarantee genuine and comprehensive representation of the will of the people in shaping the council.