New Majlis Ash’shura members elected in flawless voting

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Within hours of the closing of the polls, the first results began trickling in from around the country of newly elected candidates who will represent their respective wilayats in the new Majlis Ash’shura (2008-2011). An official tally of the elected representatives is expected to be formally announced today. Voting began at 7am at all the 102 polling stations across the Sultanate, as a significant majority of the 388,683 registered voters turned out during the course of the day to elect a new batch of 84 members to the 6th Majlis. In the fray were 631 candidates (one less than the overnight tally of 632 contenders following the demise of a contestant from Liwa wilayat) seeking election from 61 wilayats.

Abdulla bin Said al Maamari, one from nine candidates contesting from Liwa wilayat, suddenly passed away on Thursday, officials said. He was described as a lively individual who had professed a keen desire to serve the people of the wilayat by contesting the Majlis elections. Shaikh Ali bin Ahmed al Shamsi, Wali of Liwa, said the electorate had been notified of the candidate’s death well before yesterday’s ballot. According to reports garnered from around the Sultanate, voting was smooth and orderly, although voter turnout surpassed expectations in many wilayats. In Seeb Wilayat in Muscat Governorate, voters queued up at the local polling station well before it opened at 7am.

Roads leading to many polling centres in the capital region were clogged with traffic as voters set out to exercise their franchise. Polling stations closed at 7pm and ballot boxes promptly sealed and transferred to the Wali’s office for a vote count. Many registered voters, taking advantage of the government’s decision to grant voters leave of absence from work, gathered outside polling stations to show solidarity with their candidates. Their presence lent a lively touch to an otherwise sedate voting exercise.

Good turnout in Muscat wilayat
The Wilayat of Muscat witnessed a good turnout of voters at two polling centres arranged in Zahran Girls School and Al Khairan School. Polling started at 7 am and crowds began to swell from 8 am, Salem Nasser al Hadhrami, in-charge of the poll at Zahran Girls School, said. This year, the Wilayat of Muscat will elect one representative to the Majlis as the population has declined below 30,000, Al Hadhrami pointed out. The wilayat is represented by two members in the present Majlis session, he added. Thirteen candidates, including one woman, were in the fray in the wilayat of Muscat, he said, adding that 8391 voters had registered themselves for the poll.

Men and women turned out in large numbers to endorse their ballot preference. The crowds continued till about 12 pm and again started from 2 pm till 4 pm, Al Hadhrami said. The voter turnout this year was larger than the previous elections, he added. Big display boards carrying the photos and names of the 13 contestants stood at the entrance of the school, offering a last minute familiarisation opportunity for voters, a good majority of whom comprised the youth. Ibrahim Salim Hilal al Akhzami, working at Muscat Municipality, felt that separate polling centres were required for men and women. Also, pedestal fans could have been arranged at the place where people had to wait as the hot weather made it inconvenient to stand in long queues, he added.

More polling centres could have also eased the crowds, Al Akhzami said. In terms of procedures, the arrangements were good and everything went off smoothly, he added. Hussain Khamis al Balushi said he was voting for the first time in the Majlis elections. “I did not face any difficulties and volunteers were on hand to provide any clarification on the poll procedures,” Al Balushi, who is working with Muscat Insurance Services said. “I had to wait only for 20 minutes to cast my vote,” Salim Sulaiman al Ghannami, who is working with MHD, said. All arrangements were good, Al Ghannami, said adding that this was the third time he was casting his vote in Majlis elections.

Commenting on competition between contestants, Al Ghannami said that people were wiser these days not to fall for promises given by them. The educated electorate will choose only candidates who can deliver goods by taking up issues that concern the people, he added. A person who can rally people around will be the favourite to win the elections, Ghannami said, without revealing his choice candidate. Fahd Daad Karim al Balushi, who is working with the Central Bank of Oman, said the election committee had done a good job with the poll arrangements. This time, the poll has attracted more candidates as well as more voters, Al Balushi commented.

A few citizens, who wrongly turned up at the polling centre, were directed to their assigned centres in other parts of the city. Many citizens, who cast their votes, also availed the leave certificate issued at the centre. The volunteers extended all required assistance, especially to old citizens by escorting and helping them at the polling booth.

‘Meaningful exercise’
Many Omanis and expatriate residents have applauded the underlying significance of Oman’s shura experiment, especially as it goes from strength to strength with each electoral exercise every four years. The Majlis Ash’shura election is a great step forward and an opportunity for Omani citizens to participate in the country’s development, Dr C Thomas, Head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Service, Ministry of Health, said. The Majlis represents the people’s voice, facilitating a forum to discuss their rights and privileges as well as contributions to the overall development of the country, Dr Thomas added.

The Majlis election is a meaningful exercise as all citizens get a valuable opportunity to be involved in the nation-building process, Dr Thomas noted. The Majlis has made several recommendations which have been implemented over the years, Dr Thomas, said, adding that open discussions in the Majlis helped people to update themselves on facilities available in the country. P M Jabbir, Community Welfare Secretary of the Indian Social Club (ISC), said that Oman took the first initiative to involve women in the election process. “I consider the strong participation of women as a major achievement. The present Majlis Ash’shura council has two women members,” he noted.

The members of Majlis Ash’shura can bring the demands of regions to the notice of the government in the right perspective. “Majlis Ash’shura took several initiatives to resolve the problems faced by the people. The government gets the pulse of the general public,” noted Jabbir. Raphael Parambi, Chief Executive Officer of Muscat Finance, said that there has been widespread representation for the Majlis Ash’shura election from different areas and communities.

“We are also seeing well-qualified people contesting in the election, which is a good sign. The media has been quite active in encouraging people to exercise their franchise. Also, companies have been encouraging people to vote,” he added. Saying that people are taking a serious interest in the Majlis election, Parambi noted that the council is becoming more and more active by taking up issues of interest for the people for deliberation. “With the media giving a good coverage for the deliberations of the Majlis Ash’shura, it is now the responsibility of the people to review what their representatives do in the council. All these are positive signs,” Parambi said.

 

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