The Sultanate of Oman is a monarchy which has been ruled by the Al Bu Sa'id family since the middle of the eighteenth century. It possesses no political parties or directly elected representative institutions. The current Sultan is Qaboos Bin Sa'id Al Sa'id who acceded to the throne in 1970. Although the Sultan retains firm control over all important policy issues, he has integrated tribal leaders and other notables into the Government. In 1996, the Sultan presented the “Basic Statute of the State,'' Oman's first written constitution, which guarantees various rights within the framework of Koranic and customary law.
In accordance with tradition and cultural norms, much decision-making is by consensus among these leaders. In 1991, the Sultan established a fifty-nine seat Consultative Council, or Majlis Ash-Shura, which replaced an older advisory body. The Government selects council members from lists of nominees proposed by each of the fifty-nine wilayats (regions). After the country's first national census in 1993, the Sultan expanded the membership of the new Council to eighty seats. The Council has no formal legislative powers, but may question government ministers and recommend changes to new laws on economic and social policy.
Oman has been an active participant in the Middle East peace process. It participated in the Multilateral Working Group and has played an active role in the Working Group on Water Resources. Oman was the first Gulf country to host an official Israeli delegation and in 1996 Israel and Oman opened trace mission offices in each other's countries.
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