Mauritania has taken an historic step towards a free election one year after a military junta staged a bloodless coup. In the capital Nouakchott long queues of people waited hours to get to the ballot boxes. The large but mainly-desert Islamic Republic is among the world’s poorest countries. But this vote, and the discovery of off-shore oil reserves five years ago has fuelled hopes of prosperity. Just over a million registered voters have been choosing candidates, a fifth of whom must be women.
Among around 500 observers overseeing the vote is French Green Party MP Marianne Isler Beguin. She says that the process has been satisfactory but that she’d noticed some strange practices such as campaigning in front of polling stations. There have been no major complaints from NGOs on the ground. The head of the junta leading the country, Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall, pledged to bring free elections after ousting last August an authoritarian regime that had ruled for 20 years.
In a country with a high illiteracy rate, help was on hand for those unfamiliar with voting procedure.