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Oman Modern History

Sultan Qabus took power in 1970 by deposing his own father, Said bin Taimur, who has been in power for 38 years. Under the new Sultan, Oman underwent a modernization with foreign support and good economic growth as a result. However, there has been no democratization to speak of, although a constitution was adopted and an advisory assembly was established in the 1990s.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Oman. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The arch-conservative and aspiring sultan Said bin Taimur had since his entry into power in 1932 had almost completely isolated Oman from the outside world (see Older history). Qabus bin Said Al Said, who took over the palace coup in 1970, was educated in the United Kingdom and had embraced modern, Western ideas. His coup is believed to have been supported by the British, as well as by Omani militaries.

The new sultan initiated a comprehensive modernization of society, which in many respects was at the medieval level. While Oman was opened to the outside world, roads, ports, schools and hospitals were built. The build-up was almost explosive during the first years, though not always so well-planned. It was financed with foreign loans, despite growing oil revenues, which began to be mined in the country in 1967.

Contemporary History of OmanAt the time of the 1970 power shift, there was concern in the province of Dhofar, which was only loosely linked to Oman. Since 1965, a liberation army supported by the then independent, communist South Yemen had been active there. The Sultan tried to involve guerrillas in development projects for Dhofar's poor. When it refused to participate, the regime reintroduced the military and in 1975 the insurgency was wounded with the support of British, Iranian and Jordanian troops. The following year, the Sultan issued an amnesty for the rebels.

In the early 1980s, he set up a consultative council that would give him guidance on important issues. However, all the members had to be approved by the sultan, who continued to govern unequivocally.

The regime struck in 1994 against what was said to be militant Islamist movements in the country. The security service arrested several hundred people. Some were sentenced to death, but the sentence was later converted to prison.

In the late 1990s, falling oil prices led to financial problems. The government was forced to make cuts in the public sector, which led to protests from young people who risked unemployment.

During the 1990s, a small step was taken in a democratic direction, when the sultan replaced the country's powerless consultative assembly with a new consultative council, majlis al-shura, whose members would be appointed by a small group of elected citizens.

In 1996, the regent introduced for the first time in the country's history a kind of written constitution. There it was stated that Oman would have a "parliament" with a lower house and an upper house. In 2000, direct elections were held for majlis al-shura, but only a tenth of the citizens were allowed to vote. Two women were elected to the lower house.

Two years later, the sultan introduced the right to vote for all citizens over 21 years, including women, but the turnout was no more than 30 percent in the 2003 elections.. In the 2007 election, no woman got a seat in the lower house, but three women joined the government.

In early 2005, almost 100 people were arrested, accused of planning to restore the imamate through a coup d'état (see Older History). Of those arrested, 31 were sentenced to prison, but they were later pardoned.

When Oman was shaken by demonstrations in connection with the Arab Spring 2011, the development was similar. The arrest was made, but the activists eventually received amnesty.

 
 

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