Muscat: Hundreds of thousands of Omanis — including several first-time voters — took part in elections, that saw them vote for the candidate that will make up the ninth session of the Majlis Al Shura.
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The government encouraged as many people as possible to vote, having offered leave to all Omanis who had come to vote on this day, and providing citizens who lived overseas the ability to vote prior to the elections taking place on Sunday, through a special app.
In addition to this, they also ensured that special allowances were made for all those who had gone to the polls could cast their vote. Like the voting deadline for citizens had been extended from 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm. Many had patiently queued up since early morning, when voting stations officially opened to the registered public.
“The main committee for the election of the Shura Council members decided to extend the voting duration in all of the Sultanate’s governorates and wilayats to 9.00 pm,” Oman News Agency (ONA), the Sultanate’s state-run news agency, said.
Government officials were on standby to ensure that everyone who had turned out to vote did get a chance to cast their ballots, with preparations having begun well in advance to ensure everything had gone smoothly, with the minister of Interior himself, Hamoud bin Faisal Al Busaidi, coming to check on the proceedings.
“His Excellency Mr Hamoud bin Faisal Al Busaidi, the Minister of Interior, inspected the polling centres in Bousher in the Muscat Governorate at Al-Ola School for Basic Education, which was allocated to voters, and Thuraya Al-Busaidia School for Basic Education,” ONA added.
Approximately 715,335 voters were registered for this election, a significant increase from the 611,906 voters who had turned up the last time.
There were 375,801 male and 337,534 female voters at this year’s elections. Citizens who had turned up to vote hoped that people would make the right choice and send the right candidate to represent their wilayats at the Majlis Al Shura.
“We here in Sohar have been seeing high levels of participation, particularly amongst the youth,” said Abdullah Al Sumri, a senior chemist at the Port of Sohar. “It’s good to see that the young citizens are aware of how their vote effects the country’s political system and it’s nice to see how aware they are of the candidates and hopefully that will contribute nicely in the Shura Council.”
Emad Al Balushi, who also cast his vote during the 2015 elections, added, “Although some voters faced problems with biometrics, the positives outweigh the negatives in this round of elections. The voting experience was fully automated, fast and well-organised and shows better information about the candidates to voters. Upon voting, a citizen can see pictures of the candidates and their candidate numbers”. >A6
Emad also added that it had become easier for workers in private sectors to be granted leave as the polling machine automatically granted you an official leave upon voting, saying, “The only issue we faced this term were minor issues with the finger scanning, which is expected since this is the first time this polling system has been run in Oman and will hopefully improve in the future”
Yousuf Al Zadjali, a social researcher, also commented on the technical issues: “I see no problem in using an electronic polling system but the used systems should have a strong server in order to be able to maintain efficiency even if the number of users grows rapidly within the same period”
Omani citizens had come to the polling stations early in the morning so that they would not miss out on casting their votes. ONA said, “From the early morning, Omani citizens began voting to elect 86 members to represent the Majlis Al Shura for the ninth period. There were 637 candidates, of whom 597 were male candidates and 40 candidates were women.