Mauritania polls close with incumbent expecting uncontested win | News | DW | 21.06.2014
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Mauritania polls close with incumbent expecting uncontested win

Polls have closed in the northwest African state of Mauritania in Saturday's presidential election. The incumbent Abdel Aziz seems certain to retain power because of a boycott by major opposition parties.

Mauritanians on Saturday voted in a presidential election that incumbent Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was expected to win easily as his main rivals boycotted the polls.

The ex-army general, who seized power in the northwest African nation in an August 2008 coup, has campaigned strongly on his success in fighting armed groups linked to al-Qaeda at home and in neighboring Sahel nations.

Attacks by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were frequent when Abdel Aziz came to power, but he argues that his reorganization of security forces has turned his nation into a regional haven of peace.

Mauritanian troops carried out "preventative" raids on AQIM bases in neighboring Mali in 2010 and 2011, before the armed fundamentalists could carry out planned attacks on Mauritania.

Abdel Aziz has also headed the African Union's efforts to end conflict in Mali, which lost half its territory to Islamists in 2012, prompting a French intervention.

But though Abdel Aziz is strong on security, many Mauritanians are not content, since the country faces huge economic problems, particularly high unemployment.

Hoping for low turnout

The National Forum for Democracy and Unity, a coalition of main opposition parties, withdrew from the contest when the election date was chosen without their input. They complained that Aziz's control of all state institutions made the vote a "grotesque theater."

Main opposition parties did not accept Abdel Aziz's 2009 election victory, which they said was marred by massive fraud.

But, while the opposition are hoping for widespread boycott, turnout was 46 percent on Saturday evening, a source close to the Independent Electoral Commission told news agency AFP. That is more or less consistent with previous presidential elections.

Provisional results are expected overnight and official results Monday. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff vote will be held July 5.

bk/jlw (AFP/Reuters)

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