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Women win new seats on Oman municipal councils

Muscat: Seven women were elected to Oman municipal councils, according to vote results released today by the interior ministry, a day after the Gulf sultanate held its second ever local election.

Voters across the country went to the polls yesterday to choose 202 councillors from among 731 candidates for 11 municipalities, including the capital Muscat.

There were 23 women candidates, and seven won seats on local councils — three more than in the previous election.

In 1994, Oman became the first Gulf monarchy to give the vote to women and in 2011 Sultan Qaboos, who has ruled for more than 40 decades, decreed that elections be held for municipal councils.

Oman has made tentative steps in recent years towards reform, although political parties remain banned.

Councillors, who serve for four years, have limited powers as authorities designate the chairmen and deputy chairmen for the municipalities, and not from those elected.

The interior ministry said that 39.85 percent of the 623,224 registered voters cast their ballots in the election.

Oman has a population of 4.5 million, 46 percent of whom are foreigners.

At the national level, Oman has a consultative council with limited powers, the 85-member Majlis al-Shura.

In 2011, Qaboos slightly expanded the powers of the Majlis al-Shura after unprecedented social unrest when the normally quiet nation became caught up in protests which swept across the Arab world.

AFP