Mauritania poll returns incumbent as opposition boycotts vote | News | DW | 22.06.2014
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Mauritania poll returns incumbent as opposition boycotts vote

Mauritania's President Abdel Aziz has easily won re-election according to the country's electoral commission. Most opposition parties boycotted the poll.

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz won the vote for a further five-year term with nearly 82 percent of the poll, according to the electoral commission for the western North African country. Turnout was 56 percent, lower than the last elections in 2009.

Abdel Aziz did face four other candidates but most opposition parties refused to take part in what they described as an "electoral masquerade."

The Constitutional Council, Mauritania's highest court, still has to validate the results.

A former army general, Abdel Aziz played a key role in two military coups which deposed elected Presidents Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya and Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi in 2005 and 2008. He is an ally of Western powers in the fight against al Qaeda-linked Islamists in West Africa.

Abdel Aziz's main challenger in Saturday's vote was Biram Dah Abeid, president of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA). He won 8 percent of the poll.

Dah Abeid, himself of former-slave origin, won the UN Human Rights Award in 2013 for his work helping slaves and former slaves in obtaining legal representation, advocacy and survival. Up to 20 percent of Mauritania's 3.5 million people are believed to live in conditions of slavery rooted in ethnic discrimination.

In third place was Ibrahima Moctar Sarr, with 4.44 percent while the only female candidate in the race, Lalla Mariem Mint Moulaye Idriss took just 0.49 percent, according to results issued on Sunday.

Mauritania has significant natural resources, including fishery and mining. There are large mineral deposits including iron ore, gold and copper. According to the World Bank, Mauritania was Africa's second largest producer of iron ore in 2012 with 12 million tonnes. That figure is expected to rise to 18 million tonnes in 2015.

Last week, the US Embassy in Nouakchott issued a travel advisory against all non-essential travel to Adrar and Hodh El Gharbi, including mining sites around Zouerate.

Despite its natural wealth, Mauritania is one of the world's poorest countries with great economic and social inequality.

jm/bk (AFP, AP)