The Omani legislature is the bicameral Council of Oman, consisting of an upper chamber, the Council of State (Majlis ad-Dawlah) and a lower chamber, the Consultative Council (Majlis ash-Shoura). The upper chamber has 48 members appointed by the Sultan from among prominent Omanis. The 82 members of the lower chamber are elected by limited suffrage, but the Sultan makes the final selections and can negotiate the election results. The members are appointed for three-year terms, which may be renewed once.
The two chambers are independent of each other financially and administratively. There is a Supreme Committee for each chamber consisting of a president and other members. The Council of Ministers receives a annual report from each chamber prepared by the Office of that chamber and presented by its president. The government has the right to appoint a committee to be the link between these three branches. A yearly report is also presented by the presidents of each chamber to the Sultan.
The Council of Oman replaced a 55-member State Consultative Council (SCC) established in 1981, which was composed of appointed members. The SCC also used to include government officials and civil servants, which is not the case with the Majlis. This feature of the new Majlis makes it a more effective advisory body by reducing its dependence on the administration. The SCC itself had evolved from an earlier institution with even narrower advisory capacity called the Council on Agriculture, Fisheries, and Industries, established in 1979.
The Consultative Council was inaugurated in 1991. It is an advisory body and has limited powers to propose legislation. Its main function is to review and comment on draft economic and social legislation prepared by the ministries in accordance with the Five Year Plan. It also examines drafts proposed by the Sultan.
The upper house, the Council of State, was established in 1997. It is also an advisory body and its main function is to serve as a liaison between the government and the citizens. It prepares studies that help in executing the strategies for the development plans, and is charged with finding the solutions for financial, social and economical problems. The Council also presents proposals to encourage investment and to streamline political and administrative processes. The Council reviews the government’s legal proposals and presents its opinions to the Sultan and his ministers in cooperation with the Consultative Council.
The main function of the Consultative Council is to review draft legislation submitted by the government in tandem with the Council of State. The Consultative Council also advises on economical, social, environmental and any other matters referred to it by the Sultan or the government. The council is responsible to the Sultan and the Council of Ministers. The Speaker of the Consultative Council is Mr. Ahmad Al-Isa’i.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
The jurisdiction, terms, sessions, rules of procedure, membership and regulation of each chamber are determined by law. Plenary sessions are to be held four times a year.
The Office of the Council of State consists of a President, a vice-president and five members. The president is appointed by royal decree. The two vice presidents are elected by the membership of the council in a secret ballot. The Office meets every two weeks to examine legal, social, and economic issues. The president of the Council of State is Sheikh Hamoud Bin Abdullah Al-Harathi.
Committee Structures and Membership
The Supreme Committee of the Consultative Council coordinates the activities of the two chambers and acts as a liaison between the parliament and the government. It consists of a General Secretary, administrative members, and internal members. The main duty of the Supreme Committee is to assist the two Councils with its specializations and responsibilities. Other duties include the supervision of the committees and councils and the distribution of committee reports.
Legislative Drafting Processes
The Council of Oman has no direct legislative powers; its function is purely advisory, though it can submit legislative proposals to the government. All laws are issued by either royal or ministerial decree. In 1994, the Ministry of Legal Affairs replaced the Diwan of Legislation as the authority charged with preparing royal decrees and reviewing all draft laws, regulations, and ministerial decisions before they are promulgated and published in the Official Gazette. This ministry itself issues the Official Gazette. It also gives legal opinion and advice to the government on the interpretation of royal decrees and laws, and scrutinizes any contract committing the government to expenditure of over RO 500,000 ($1.3 million). International treaties, agreements and charters signed or approved by the sultan become law from the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.
The Consultative Council of Oman is a member of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU).