, NOUAKCHOTT, Jul 19 – Coup leader Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz looked headed to victory on Sunday in Mauritania’s presidential election, but the opposition denounced the vote as a charade with "prefabricated results".
With Ould Abdel Aziz looking set to be elected without the need for a runoff, his supporters took to the streets of the capital overnight Saturday soon after polling stations closed to celebrate his expected victory.
According to the partial results from the electoral commission with 61.17 percent of ballots counted, Ould Abdel Aziz — leader of the coup last August that ousted Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Mauritania’s first elected head of state — enjoyed 52.2 percent of the votes.
His nearest challenger was parliamentary speaker Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, the anti-coup front candidate, with 16.63 percent of votes. In third place was the head of the main opposition party, Ahmed Ould Daddah, with 13.89 percent.
Out of a field of nine candidates for president, the moderate Islamist Jemil Ould Mansour has garnered 4.66 percent of the vote and the former junta chief in 2005-2007, colonel Elu Ould Mohamed Vall, 3.78 percent.
The electoral commission said voter turnout was 61 percent in an election intended to restore democracy in Mauritania, which has mostly known military rule since independence in 1960.
The coup leader ceded control as head of the junta in April and resigned from the army to contest Saturday’s election. But while he looked poised for outright victory, four of his opponents called the election a charade.
"The results which are starting to come out show that it is an electoral charade which is trying to legitimise the coup," Ould Boulkheir told a press conference held with Ould Daddah, Ould Mohamed Vall and Hamai Ould Meimou, an independent candidate.
They issued a joint declaration rejecting what they called "prefabricated results" and calling on the international community to carry out an independent enquiry into voting irregularities.
They also called on "competent bodies" like the constitutional council and interior ministry not to validate the results, and for the Mauritanian people to "mobilise to defeat this electoral coup d’etat."
Saturday’s election was designed to restore constitutional democracy to this arid, but potentially oil-rich country in northwest Africa.
Some 1.2 million of the nation’s three million people were eligible to vote in the polls which were monitored by international observers from the African Union, the Arab League and the association of Francophone countries.
After a lacklustre campaign, observers had thought no candidate would be strong enough to emerge with a first-round majority and that a second run-off vote would be likely on August 1.