Muscat: Not only women are expected to miss out on chances to be elected for the next Shura Council but the ineffectiveness of the campaign has left many voters disillusioned as to how well the electoral process serves the country.
In the 2011 elections, electorates turn out 15 percent less than the previous campaign in 2007. It may well be the same this year with some voters opting to stay at home rather than queuing up at the ballot stations. The dwindling numbers of those taking part in the elections is casting a shadow over the ability of elected candidates to deliver on their promises to the people who put them in the Council.
When citizens go to the polls they are choosing more than a Council member. They want a person who would represent them in the government to negotiate their rights, solve their problems but above all, get their voices heard. Voters now are disenchanted believing that their representatives want to be elected for the personal perks they can get with the positions and not to make political changes. Electors want decisions to be made on most important issues that have impact on their lives. They are not willing to tolerate any more people who go for power and forget the ethics behind the electoral process.
People in many constituents are baffled when they find that the representatives they voted for are not available for consultations or in some cases, have changed their phone numbers once elected. In many areas, especially in smaller towns, the changes members of the Shura Council promised the people who put them in power never materialised. They were promised reforms such as tougher laws on frauds, corruption, better health services, social security housing and even road repairs. In October, voters would ask themselves whether it is worth the trouble to do it all over again. The elections have become grander and campaign pompous but the results not to the expectations of voters.
In a Western style campaign, candidates now spend a fortune for huge street posters and media promotions. They see hundreds of potential candidates send countless of social media messages to get themselves elected. Then there are the bland campaigns from candidates who cannot afford to pay for a blaze of publicity. They rely on word of mouth and their relationships with the influential people of their constituencies to do the work for them. This time, there are indications that voters would neither be impressed by the publicity nor respond to the quiet campaigners. It may well be the start of loss of confidence in Oman’s homemade parliamentarian system. However, the declining voting interest in the last few elections could be what is needed to send a strong message to future elections.
The contenders would know that it is not about them. It is about electors and they would like their lives improved and protected. Unless electorates find the reason to drive to the polling stations in the next two months, then the next election would be just another formality. They need to see the enthusiasm and in all modesty, genuine candidates who are worthy of their votes. They also need to see radical changes, meaningful dialogue and leadership. As October edges closer, women too have something to say about it. They have been blamed for not playing an active role. Women make up about half of the population but it is men who have been controlling the Majlis Al Shura so far. Perhaps, this time, the precious women who have registered to stand for elections might be what is needed to put the wind back on the sail of the sinking electoral boat. There is a popular local saying: “It takes a woman to get a house into a good shape.”
This House certainly needs a strong feminine participation to get itself in good order.