The scant international coverage of Oman’s 2015 Consultative Council elections is not surprising. An absolute monarchy widely perceived as a bastion of political stability, Oman rarely features in world news. The sultanate’s strong ties with both Iran and the Arab Gulf monarchies allow it to play an important role in regional diplomacy, but the representatives of Sultan Qaboos bin Sa‘id al-Sa‘id fulfill this role discreetly. When the wave of Arab uprisings in 2011 reached the sultanate’s shores, Omanis were as surprised as the international community. Protests in the cities of Muscat, Salala and Suhar lasted from January 17 to May 14 of that year, with demonstrators voicing demands for political, economic and social reform.
The contemporary opposition movements in the Arabian Peninsula have their origins in two processes of radicalization in Middle Eastern politics. The first was the rise of radical nationalists, Nasserists and Baathists, and of communist parties in the 1950s and 1960s, and the second is the spread of the radical Islamic groups in the latter part of the 1970s. The political organizations now engaged in opposition politics in the peninsula spring essentially from these two competing trends.