In the fray
 
Twenty-one women are among the 631 candidates vying for seats in the Majlis ash-Shura, in only the second election open to all citizens aged over 21.
 
One candidate from Liwa province 250km, north of the capital Muscat, died just before the election, a local official said.
 
Just one in four of Oman's population had the vote before the franchise was expanded in the 2003 polls.
 
The outgoing council has two female members.
 
The council was created in 1991, and three years later Oman became the first Muslim Gulf Arab state to give women the right to vote and run for public office.
 
Trend setter
 
An academic speaking anonymously noted that Oman being quick to create the advisory council after the Gulf crisis, convinced some of the region's rulers that they must "introduce some form of political participation".

Many Omanis waited in queues on Saturday in
the capital city to cast their votes [AFP]
But there have been occasional calls for more.
 
Omanis generally profess satisfaction with the council despite its limited powers, echoing the line of their ruler Sultan Qaboos that Oman should not mindlessly follow other countries in setting the pace of democratisation.
 
Qaboos announced the impending establishment of the council in November 1990, at the height of the Gulf crisis sparked by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August that year.
 
He stressed at the time that while Oman should be "open to the experiences of other states", it should "not imitate for the sake of imitating".
 
Ruler praised
 
Candidates have praised the sultanate's ruler, saying that it is thanks to Qaboos, in power since ousting his father in a bloodless coup in July 1970, that their once semi-feudal country has embarked on the path of modernity despite its relatively modest oil resources.
 
Oman, which is not a member of Opec, produces about 85,000 barrels of crude a day and has sought to diversify its economy.
 
Tribalism remains decisive in Oman where family and tribal links are a dominant factor.
 
Oman, co-guardian with Iran of the strategic Strait of Hormuz entrance to the oil-rich Gulf, has a population of at least 2.3 million, of whom some 1.96 million are native Omanis.