Saudi Arabian men went to the polls on Thursday to cast ballots in landmark municipal elections, which are being hailed as the first step to reform in the conservative Islamic country. The polls closed at 5 p.m. local time (1400 UTC), and election officials say vote counting began immediately. Voter turnout was expected to be low, as only a quarter of eligible voters registered. The nationwide vote will be conducted in three stages. On Thursday, men voted in and around the capital, Riyadh, for 38 municipal councils. Other parts of the country will vote in March and April. But the vote has been criticized for excluding women -- who make up half the country's population. Election officials say they did not have enough time to set up separate "women only" voting centers to accommodate female voters.