When Nations Are Ready for Democracy?

the Economist Intelligence classified Oman as an authoritarian country, ranking it 125th out of 167 countries worldwide


Determining the readiness of nations for democracy is a complex and debated topic among scholars and experts. While there is no universally agreed-upon set of criteria, several factors are commonly considered when assessing a nation’s readiness for democracy. Here are some key factors supported by academic literature:
Economic Development: Several studies suggest a positive correlation between economic development and the likelihood of successful democratization. An argument suggests that as societies modernize economically, the growth of the middle class and education levels creates a conducive environment for democratic values and institutions to thrive, (Lipset, 1959)[1]. Another study finds a strong positive correlation between economic development and successful democratization, highlighting that higher income levels tend to support democratic stability[2].

Education and Literacy: Education is often seen as a significant factor in nurturing democratic values and active citizen participation. A well-educated population is more likely to understand democratic principles, engage in critical thinking, and actively participate in political processes (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005)[3].
Civil Society and Social Capital: The presence of a vibrant civil society, including non-governmental organizations, social movements, and strong social networks, can contribute to the readiness for democracy. Civil society organizations play a crucial role in advocating for democratic reforms, holding governments accountable, and promoting citizen participation (Putnam, 1993)[4].

Political Culture and Values: The existence of a democratic political culture characterized by a respect for human rights, pluralism, tolerance, and a commitment to democratic values is considered essential for the successful implementation of democracy (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005)[5].

Institutional Capacity: Strong and effective institutions, including an independent judiciary, impartial electoral commissions, free media, and checks and balances, are crucial for the functioning of a democratic system (Diamond, 1999)[6].

It is important to acknowledge that these factors are not steadfast and definitive rules. The progress towards democracy and the preparedness of countries can vary depending on the influence of various political, social, and economic factors. Nevertheless, examining these factors can aid in comprehending the variables that may contribute positively or negatively to the realisation of democracy, given the official institutional desire and societal motivation for such change.

The state of democracy in Oman:

Despite the existence of the Omani Council, which consists of two chambers: the upper and lower chambers, with the upper chamber representing the State Council whose members are appointed by royal decree, and the lower chamber being the Consultative Council whose members are elected every 4 years by the people, it cannot be considered a parliament. This is because both chambers have very limited powers that do not extend beyond the consultative role, as per the Basic Statute of the State. Their role is primarily limited to discussing and approving legislative bills and development plans.
Furthermore, in Oman, the Sultan holds numerous positions, including the Head of State, Prime Minister, and the head of the Supreme Judicial Council. The political system in Oman is hereditary and monarchial, where the Sultan wields absolute power. Additionally, there is no freedom for civil society in Oman to establish political parties or human rights associations/organisations. Article 116 of Oman’s Penal Code criminalises any activities that could be interpreted in this manner.
Furthermore, Article 121 of the same law criminalises gatherings and peaceful demonstrations, considering any assembly of more than 10 individuals that threatens security or public order as unlawful. However, in previous periods, arrests have been made for gatherings of fewer individuals, as exemplified by the case of Hani Al-Sarhani and two others on August 27, 2022.

In its 2022 Democracy Index, the Economist Intelligence classified Oman as an authoritarian country, ranking it 125th out of 167 countries worldwide, with a score of no more than 3.12 out of 10. The index table was divided into four categories of systems: full/complete democracy, flawed/defective democracy, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian regimes. Despite the existence of the Council of Oman, which consists of the Council of State and the Shura Council, neither branch can be considered a parliament, as they have very limited powers that do not exceed the advisory role, according to the basic law of the state. The role of both branches of the council is limited to discussing and approving draft laws and development plans.

Moreover, according to the Freedom House, Oman is considered a “Not Free” country, having received a score of 24/100 in the assessment of political and civil freedoms enjoyed by its population.

Oman has not yet signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which emphasizes political participation and political freedoms in several of its provisions.

In your opinion, what would be the optimal means for Oman to become a truly democratic political system?

[1] Lipset, S. M. (1959). Some social requisites of democracy: Economic development and political legitimacy. American Political Science Review, 53(1), 69-105.
[2] Przeworski, A., Alvarez, M. E., Cheibub, J. A., & Limongi, F. (2000). Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990. Cambridge University Press.
[3] Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, cultural change, and democracy: The human development sequence. Cambridge University Press.
[4] Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton University Press.
[5] Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, cultural change, and democracy: The human development sequence. Cambridge University Press.
[6] Diamond, L. J. (1999). Developing democracy: Toward consolidation. JHU Press.

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