"The election of the Majlis al-Shura's fifth term carried out on 4 October were free and fair and represented a turning point in the march of the shura process," said Shaikh Abd Allah bin Ali al-Qatabi on Saturday.

The former diplomat added the 83-member advisory council, which includes two women, would start its ordinary session on Monday when new legal, economic, health, education and culture committees are formed. 

He said the fact that 34% of the elected members were post-graduates or graduates and 30% with secondary school certificates augured well for the future of the process of political liberalisation, initiated 12 years ago in accordance with Oman's first written constitution of 1996. 

Electing technocrats

Although there is nothing new about having two women deputies in Oman's advisory council, the representatives' education level is something of note.

A third of council members are
postgraduates or graduates

"It is definitely the most educated council we had so far," the editorial manager of al-Shabiba newspaper, Kifah al-Hussain, told Aljazeera.net.

In an interview published by newspapers on Saturday, bin Ali said 50% of the elected members were trained and experienced in administration and private business, while the remaining 50% comprised shaikhs, dignitaries, lawyers, educationist and engineers. 

The interview was conducted to mark the 33rd National Day on 18 November, when Sultan Qabus is to address the country.