A total of 506 candidates - 15 of them women - are vying for seats on the Majlis ash-Shura, which advises the government on economic and social issues. The Majlis, though, has no say in defence, internal security or foreign policy. 

Despite government pleas for voters to chose candidates on the basis of merit rather than kinship, several people at a polling station in the capital Muscat said they had voted for the candidate picked by their tribal chief.

The government is hoping for a high turnout to make up for a low rate of voter registration, which saw only 262,000 Omanis register to cast their ballot. 

This prompted officials to play down the original figure of
eligible voters, which they had put at 822,000. 

Women voters

More than a third - 95,000 - of registered voters are women, who have two seats reserved for them on the outgoing council. 

For the first time, all Omanis aged over 21 have been given the right to vote, compared to only one in four in the last ballot in 2000. 

Polls opened at 7:00 am (03:00 GMT) and were due to close at at 7:00 pm (15:00 GMT). 

Officials say they expect results to start coming out after
midnight, but they stress that they will take as long as is required to ensure they are properly tallied. An official announcement of the result may therefore be delayed until Sunday morning.