The voters in Oman responded with unexpected enthusiasm for the first Municipal Council elections on Saturday.
“Voters lined up to exercise their franchise even before the centre opened at 7am,” Abdul Majid Al Hooti, a returning officer, told Gulf News amidst constant flow of voters lining up at the Jaber Bin Zaid School for Muttrah Municipal Council.
“We are happy with the response until midday and we expect even more before the closing at 7pm,” Wali of Muttrah, Yahya Bin Nasser Al Harassi, told Gulf News.
He added that 16,116 voters will send four representatives to the Municipal Council out of 24 in the fray.“People of Oman have responded well to the new democratic path by whole heartedly taking part in the elections,” he believes.
Numan Bin Zahran Bin Hamoud Al Rawahi, who is contesting from Muttrah, also expressed pleasant surprise at the response from the voters. “The early voting trend is very encouraging and may cross the 56 to 58 per cent voting at this centre for the last Shura elections,” he reckons.
He attributed the final media campaign behind voters coming out in big numbers. Al Rawahi also praised the Election Commission for the smooth conduct of the elections as well as excellent arrangements that included direct excess by elevator to the polling room for physically challenged and old-age voters.
“The response seems to be excellent from people to the Municipal Council elections,” Abdul Haleem Al Sabbagh, a voter, told Gulf News.
“These Municipal Council elections are very important as it touches us personally,” the private sector employee added.
Nisreen Dawood Al Balushi also thinks that these elections are very important. “We expect winning candidates to take people’s voice to a higher level,” she said, adding that she was overwhelmed with the response from voters at the Qurum Girl’s School, which is a centre for women from Muttrah constituency.
Another young Omani girl, who was volunteering for her father’s candidature at the women’s polling centre, said that response was encouraging in the morning. “I expect bigger turn out in the evening as a lot of people must have gone for work in the morning,” pointed out Aamnaa Mahmood Al Shawasei.
Firebrand Omani journalist and former Majlis Asshura elections candidate, Rafiah Al Talei returns to Oman after seven years to cover the elections for Sky News Arabia is optimistic about the changes in her home country.
Rafiah had contested the first open elections in 2003 for Shura but had blamed other candidate of buying votes to win elections. “Younger Omanis understand what democracy is and what they want for the country,” she believes.
She told Gulf News that protests last year had given people some power and realisation that they can ask for more participation in making policies.
She said that during her visit now she had interacted with candidates as well voters and they seem to want to move further. “Everyone wants to enhance their experience,” she said.
“People now know how far they can go to ask for more rights and participation in governance,” she added.
She cautioned young Omanis that they must play within rules available to them. “Oman is on the right track and these elections are a right step,” she said.
People of Oman also seemed to have lapped up the right step as a record number of 1,475 have entered in the field for 192 seats in 11 Municipal Councils across the country.