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Sun 28 Oct 2007 01:46 PM

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Women jilted in national elections

Oman's 84-member Shura Council will be all male after 21 female candidates failed to win seats.

Women will not have a voice on Oman’s 84-member advisory Shura Council, after 21 female candidates failed to win seats in Saturday’s poll despite record numbers voting in the sultanate’s second open election.

The absence of any women on the council, which advises the government on economic and social issues without having any legislative powers, has led to calls for a quota system to ensure females get a minimum number of seats, reported newswire Reuters.

"I am disappointed that women have not been elected but we must respect the choice of the voters," said Rahila Al-Riyami, one of the two female members of the outgoing council, quoted the newswire.

"Quotas would introduce discrimination within the Shura Council. As a woman, I am against that."

Saturday’s vote marked the first time candidates were allowed to conduct election campaigns, with over 621 candidates from across Oman’s 61 provinces contesting for the 84 seats.

Over 100 polling stations opened at 7am (0300 GMT) on Saturday and closed at 7pm that evening.

Around 380,000 citizens had registered to vote, although it is not yet known how many of them cast their ballot.

The election was marked by a massive female turnout at the polls, with woman voters observed to have significantly outnumbered their male counterparts.

"If you take rough estimate so far three women must have cast vote for every one man," said Khalfan Bin Mohammed Al Ghaithi, an election officer at the Muttrah constituency's pooling station at the Ruwi Girls School, quoted UAE daily Gulf News.

However, some women have complained that they had trouble getting to polling stations because they relied on their men for transport, said Reuters.

The Omani population, estimated to be around 1.9 million, is made up of 45% women.

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