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Oman first-time local polls turnout tops 50%

By AFP - Dec 23,2012 - Last updated at Dec 23,2012

MUSCAT — Voter turnout topped 50 per cent in Oman’s first ever local elections for 192 councillors with advisory powers, the sultanate’s deputy interior minister announced on Sunday.

Turnout reached “50.3 per cent of the electronically registered voters”, Khaled Albusaidi said, quoted by the official ONA.

Turnout among the registered 447,551 voters was “satisfying”, said Albusaidi, adding that the polls which took place on Saturday “were successful at all levels.”

Among the 1,475 hopefuls, all of whom were standing as independents in a country where political parties remain banned, four out of 46 female candidates won seats.

The normally sleepy sultanate was caught up in the 2011 protests which swept the Arab world, with demonstrators taking to the streets to demand improved living conditions and reforms.

In the northern city of Sohar, two demonstrators were shot dead in clashes between police and protesters.

The 60 or so municipal councils will all have appointed chairmen and deputy chairmen alongside their elected members. Previously only the capital Muscat had a city council and its members were all appointed.

The councils will have no executive powers, according to a decree issued by Sultan Qaboos last year, in which he said that they will “present recommendations regarding improving municipal services”.

Oman’s elected Majlis Al Shura, created in 1991, has the authority to question ministers and advise the government on socioeconomic issues but also has no legislative power or role in defence, internal security or foreign policy.

The sultanate has an all-appointed council of state, a 57-seat upper chamber which together with the majlis makes up the Council of Oman.

After last year’s protests, the sultan decreed changes to the basic law giving the Council of Oman some legislative and oversight powers.

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