Oman's sultan is an absolute monarch. The sultanate has no constitution, legislature, or suffrage. In 1970, Sultan Qabus appointed a cabinet of ministers responsible for various government departments and functions.
A State Consultative Council, established in 1981, consisted of 55 appointed representatives of government, the private sector, and regional interests.
This body was replaced in 1991 by a Majlis Al-Shura, a 59-seat Consultative Council, which was seen as a first step toward popular participation in government. The Sultan expanded the membership to 80 seats after the country's first national census in 1993.
The Council has no formal legislative powers but may question government ministers, and recommend changes to new laws on economic and social policy. These recommendations have led to amendments to proposed decrees.
On 6 November 1996 the Sultan decreed the country's first "basic law" which provides for citizens' basic rights in writing and a body known as the Majlis Oman (Council of Oman) which includes a new Council of State (Majlis Al-Dawla) and the current Consultative Council.
In 2000, the Consultative Council was expanded to 83 seats, and members were chosen by the vote of 175,000 governmentselected electors. In January 2001, the sultan appointed 53 members of the Majlis Al-Dawla, including 5 women.
In November 2002, the sultan extended voting rights to all citizens over the age of 21. Voters in Oman were previously chosen from among tribal leaders, intellectuals, and businessmen.