Oman municipal elections Image Credit: Supplied

Muscat: Omanis queued up in polling stations across the country from early morning to cast their votes for the second Municipal Elections on Sunday.

The number of voters registered this year stood at 623,224, including 333,733 men and 289,491 women, with an increase of 100,000 from the last elections, according to the Ministry of Interior.

As many as 731 candidates are vying for 202 seats, of whom 23 are women.

The ministry has also allocated 107 election centres across the country including 18 centres for men, 18 for women and 71 centres for both men and women.

The organising committee of the Municipal Elections reported a good turnout nationwide and more were expected to turn up throughout the day.

“The election process went very smoothly without any obstacles,” said Khalid Al Busaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior and the head of the organising committee of the election.

Al Busaidi added that the ministry has introduced a new state-of-the-art machine for the first time in the municipal elections to count votes in a quicker, easier and more transparent way.

The new machine counts votes automatically.

The voter only has to insert the paper with a tick marked next to his or her preferred candidate’s name, which will be available in all election centres nationwide.

Gulf News paid a visit to two election centres in the capital, Muscat, where hundreds of Omanis from Muscat province flocked to cast their votes.

Nasra Al Beloushi, a 65-year-old woman, told Gulf News she was determined to vote despite being in a wheelchair.

“I came to vote for my candidate as I hope that he will give a voice for us to bring more development to our village,” she said.

Salim Al Zadjlai, 34 year-old first time voter from the Mutrah province said he decided to vote after his family convinced him it was in the interest of his province.

“It was a quick and easy process,” he said.

The 100,000 new voters signal an uptick in Omani civil engagement.

“Awareness campaigns on the importance of the Municipal elections have contributed to the increasing number of voters,” Mohammad Al Hinai, a specialist in both Shura and Municipal Council Election, told Gulf News.

Oman had established the first Municipal Council in the capital Muscat in 1939; all members were appointed by the government.

In 1972 it was restructured to limit participation only in the Muscat governorate.

In 2012, Oman held elections for the first time for the Municipal Council.

Candidates must be Omani, not less than thirty years old and have no criminal record.

Candidates should submit their applications to offices of the walis (governors) in the provinces from where they wish to contest.

Members of the elected Shura Council and appointed State Council are not eligible to contest the municipal elections.

The rules also bar all government employees from contesting.

Under a law promulgated last year, 61 provinces in the country will have seats in the Municipal Council.

Four women were elected to the Municipal Council in 2012. The council’s term is four years.