MUSCAT, OCT 28 - As many as 350,581 nationals, forming slightly less than half of the total eligible voters, cast their votes in the elections held for Majlis Ash’shura on Sunday. This was stated during a joint press conference of the Higher Committee and the Main Committee for the Majlis Ash’shura 9th Term Elections held at the Media Centre in Grand Hyatt, Muscat, on Monday. Dr Khalifa bin Mohammed al Hadhrami, Vice-President of the Supreme Court and Chairman of the Higher Committee, expressed satisfaction over the elections. “The process was smooth and conducted easily in all the wilayats of the Sultanate,” he said. The percentage voting rose slightly above 49 per cent, including the votes cast by Omanis abroad.
Two women have won the elections this time against one in the previous term to have their presence in the next term of the Majlis Ash’shura.
According to data revealed at the press conference by Talal bin Ahmed al Sa’adi, Secretary of the Main Committee of Elections, the highest participation rate was registered in Salalah with 71 per cent of the total number of voters turning out
to cast their votes.
“In a national partnership, characterised by ease, clarity and transparency, and with an awareness that enhances the Omani model of Shura action, voters across the country started thronging the election centres since 7 am to cast their votes and to choose their candidates for the ninth term,” Al Sa’adi said.
The Wilayat of Qurayat recorded an increase in the number of female voters compared to the males, as female participation rate reached 51 per cent out of the total number of voters recorded in that wilayat.
“Omani and various media representatives from brotherly and friendly countries followed the voting at all the 110 polling stations. They also recorded live the turnout at the polling stations in various wilayats throughout the voting hours, which extended from 7 am to 9 pm. The voting time was extended for two hours in all wilayats of the Sultanate to enable all voters to cast their vote,” he said.
The election of the members of the Majlis for the ninth term also constituted another advanced step on the road of electronic development of the elections, making it smoother, faster and easier for voters.
“The e-voting provided the opportunity for the first time for all Omani voters outside the country to cast their votes, wherever they are through the application of ‘Distance Voting’ via smartphones,” he said.
The results of ‘Distance Voting’ for Omanis abroad were incorporated into Sunday’s election results, when final results were announced, he added.
According to him, the elections of the ninth term were characterised by being electronic in all stages, starting with registration of new voters who have reached the age of 21 and enjoy the right to vote.
This was in addition to those who have not previously registered till the transfers of registration and change of electoral headquarters, candidacy processes, announcement of lists of candidates and voters, as well as voting and sorting-out operations, in accordance with the rules prescribed by the law, he said.
The use of the electronic device ‘Sawtak’ or ‘Your Voice’ in voting and counting in the polling stations in the elections of the ninth term of the Majlis was a major achievement.
“The device, which is 100 per cent Omani design and make, was developed during years of hard work of our national cadre, to be more suitable for all voters, including the disabled,” Al Sa’adi said.
In the elections on Sunday, 994 voting machines were distributed to 110 polling stations, including five unified voting centres in Bausher, Thamrait, Haima, Adam and Khasab, as Bausher, Thamrait and Khasab included a voting centre for females in each of them which increased the number of unified voting centres to eight, to enable voters outside their wilayats to cast their votes easily.
All technical measures have been taken to ensure the smooth running of the election process, including the provision of backup equipment and technical support for any problem that may arise. It is known that ‘Sawtak’ device keeps information in case of emergency.
The voting process went as planned despite being extended for two hours in all wilayats of the Sultanate.
He said that the Supreme Elections Commission, headed by the Vice-Chairman of the Supreme Court, oversees the various stages of the election process, decides on appeals, if any, and ensures that the election process is held in accordance with the law.
The Main Elections Committee, chaired by the under-secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, makes the key efforts for preparations for elections, coordination and cooperation with other stakeholders.
“This comes within the framework of the tasks specified by the law to ensure the availability of all the organisational and logistical aspects necessary to complete the election process easily and without any interference in the voting process through the sub-committees, or interference in the counting process, which is conducted electronically and under judicial supervision”, he said.
He pointed out that the Ministry of Interior, through the Main Elections Committee, and through the Ministerial Decisions issued by the Minister of the Interior, has ensured good organisation of the stages and provided full guarantees for its transparency.
“Therefore, thanks should be given to various parties which contributed to the success of the elections. We are proud of this success because the Omani citizens showed great awareness by their remarkable turnout,” he said.
Most of the candidates who contested the elections were highly qualified with several of them holding PhD and higher degrees.
According to figures presented at the press conference, 28 candidates were PhD holders, 75 with Masters, 195 Bachelor degree holders, 65 Higher Diploma holders and 274 holders of General Education Diploma.
At the same time, the highest number of female candidates was in the Governorate of Muscat with 20 and the Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah had 6.
“This reflects the awareness of the Omani women and their keenness to participate in the national work”, the secretary of the Main Committee of Elections said.
As for the number of voters for the ninth period of the Majlis Ash’shura, the total number was 713,335 voters, including 375,801 male voters and 337,534 female voters. The largest wilayat in terms of the number of voters is the Wilayat of Salalah in the Governorate of Dhofar (40,444) male and female voters, followed by the Wilayat of Al Suwaiq in the Governorate of North Al Batinah (36,149) voters.
The smallest wilayat in terms of the number of voters is the Wilayat of Al Sinaina in the Governorate of Al Buraimi (369) male and female voters, followed by the Wilayat of Maqshan in the Governorate of Dhofar (985) voters.
The biggest governorate in terms of the number of voters is the Governorate of North Al Batinah (144,719) male and female voters, followed by the Governorate of Muscat (102,104) male and female voters.
The smallest governorates in terms of the number of voters is Musandam (11,594) male and female voters, followed by the Governorate of Al Wusta (12,241) male and female voters. He added that voters elected 86 members of the Majlis Ash’shura for the ninth term, one more for the Wilayat of Liwa compared to the eighth term.
He pointed out that in light of the assurances taken by the Ministry of Interior and the Main Elections Committee and the judicial supervision of the elections through the Supreme
Elections Commission, the members of the Majlis Ash’shura elected, in effect, reflect the choices of Omani voters, their hopes for the ninth term of the Majlis Ash’shura, and their discharge of their legislative and supervisory functions and powers as per the Legislative System promulgated by the Royal Decree No 101/96 on November 6, 1996 and its amendments.
Citizens’ choices are always respected by the government and various state institutions, within the framework of the integration of modern state institutions, established by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.
“We wish further progress and prosperity to our beloved Oman under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.”
Ahmed bin Said al Shukaili, Assistant Attorney General, Higher Committee’s member, said that the committee did not receive any complaints pertaining to the voting conducted on Sunday.
Nasser bin Sulaiman al Sibani, Deputy Chairman of the Public Authority for Radio and Television (PART), Chairman of the Media Committee for the Elections, praised the great turnout of voters, which reflected the political awareness among individuals in the society.
He added that the voters were keen to practice their electoral right to elect their candidates to represent their wilayats in the Majlis Ash’shura. He also highlighted the participation of woman in the elections as two female candidates won, which is a positive indication for women’s participation.
The press conference was attended by Dr Abdulmunim bin Mansoor al Hasani, Minister of Information, Ali bin Khalfan al Jabri, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Information, journalists, media men, representatives of local, Arab and foreign media covering Majlis Ash’shura elections.
(With inputs from ONA)