Muscat: The Sultanate witnessed a 'positive' turnout of voters in the historic Municipal Council elections held.
Excited voters came out as early as 6.30am and stood in queues to cast their votes at the 104 polling centres across the Sultanate.
When the voting started at 7am, most of the polling centres already had long queues of people waiting to cast their ballots.
Though it was not possible to ascertain the percentage of votes polled, authorities were buoyed by the steady flow of voters despite it being a working day.
The rules permitted employees to take a fully paid leave from their work and most of them took a short break from the office to cast vote as they felt it was their "national responsibility".
The government spared no efforts to ensuring the smooth conduct of polls and it was evident in the way the day proceeded.
Speaking to Times of Oman, Yahya bin Nasser Al Harassi, the Wali of Muttrah said, "Voters' turnout at the centres in this wilayat was significant and positive. People turned up sharp at 7am and this shows the interest of the Omani community in the electoral process. This also showed their acceptance of this new process along with Majlis Al Shura."
He added: "I expected a good turnout from the 16,116 registered voters in Muttrah."
Supervising the proceedings at the Jabir bin Ziad School, Al Harassi said, "All polling centres were fully equipped to make polling process easier. We are happy it went on smoothly."
Depending on the number of registered voters, some wilayats had separate polling centres for men and women.
Special rooms were arranged for those with special needs. Each of the polling centres had members of the election committee assisting and guiding people to their respective halls.
Cards with technical faults were referred to a special room which sorted out the problems faced by some of the voters.
Khalid bin Hilal bin Saud Al Busaidi, undersecretary of the Interior Ministry and chairman of the main committee for Municipal Councils elections, said, "Mobile electronic units at the polling centres enabled voters to fix any problems in their ID cards. This enabled them to cast their votes."
Showing their enthusiasm to choose 192 members for the 11 Municipal Councils, voters seemed determined to have their say in the local matters.
An enthusiastic Nabila Ali Balushi, who voted at the women's polling centre at Qurum Girl's High School, said, "It is our national responsibility to vote. I hope as many people should turn out to cast their votes so that they can have their say in the issues that affect them directly. For instance, in my locality in Wadi Al Adai, we have been facing a huge problem of overflowing of water from gutter. It becomes a complete mess when it rains. So I believe the person who wins from our wilayat will solve this problem."
She also hopes that the Municipal Councils will play a major role in the kind of services that will be made available to the people.
Nabila, however, expects that the winning candidates do not forget them once the elections are over. "They should remember that they have won on our votes," she said.
What is significant is that women turned out in large numbers to cast their votes.
Pinning high hopes on her candidate, Nisreen Dawood Al Zedjali said she voted because she wanted her voice and demands to be carried to the authorities concerned.
Amna, another voter who has been campaigning for her father Mahmood Al Shawarei, said, "This election is very significant and will prove to be an important catalyst for the development of the country."
Meanwhile, 65-year-old Hafeedha Al Balushi, who has been voting in the Majlis Al Shura elections, said, "I think having a Municipal Council is the right step for a happy future."
The Municipal Councils will have a term of four years and would contribute to enhancing the overall public sector performance as they open the door for de-centralised and localised decision-making process.
Echoing similar views, Abdul Haleem Sabbagh said that the Council would be a new channel to reach out to the ministries. "A majority of them are well educated and young. I am positive that these people will plan well for our wilayats and the country," he said.
Coordination at each of the polling centres was also a commendable factor.
Fahad Al Khanjari, a private sector employee, said that the atmosphere at the pooling booths was very cordial.
"Supporters of particular candidates even helped people of the rival camps. The cordial atmosphere made me feel proud to be an Omani," he said. Abdul Majeed Al Hoti, an officer of voting committee, said, "All facilities were put in place to ensure the success of elections."