Omanis vote in advisory council election

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MUSCAT, Oct 27 (Reuters) Omanis voted on Saturday for members of a 84-member advisory Shura council following the Gulf Arab sultanate's first public election campaign.

The council, which is symbolic and has no formal say in state affairs, is in its fifth term.

The Omani Interior Ministry said 388,683 people were registered to vote and 632 candidates standing in 61 electoral areas included 21 women.

Officials started to count ballots and are expected to announce the results in the early hours of Sunday.

''I am proud to participate in the elections,'' voter Saud al-Hamad told Reuters at a polling station in the Muscat.

Two women were elected in the last such poll in 2003.

''I will give my vote to a woman, we need to empower them,'' said Azza bin Sheikh al-Sulaimyah.

Oman is ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said who came to power in 1970. He also appoints the cabinet.

Oman allowed public campaigning for the poll for the first time and candidates were able to post their pictures and political programmes on billboards around the country.

REUTERS SZ PM0133

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