The self-styled “candidate of the poor” is favourite to win Mauritania’s first presidential election since last summer’s bloodless coup.
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz led the military junta that seized power, although he has since quit the army to contest today’s poll. Veteran opposition figure Ahmed Ould Daddah is another key candidate as is Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, who himself mounted a coup in 2005. The election is a chance for the government to reclaim legitimacy and rejoin the international community. Money is also at stake for Mauritania. A return to democracy would open the door for international donors to restart aid programmes shelved in protest at the coup. The point is highlighted by Mauritanian economist Isselmou Ould Mohamed who believes the challenge is to return development aid to its former level. “That is to say, Mauritania must re-establish relations after the World Bank suspension, with the European Union and other donors,” he said. Voting has passed off peacefully today despite reports of a clash between police and armed men overnight in the capital. Neither the EU nor the UN have sent observers but the poll is being monitored by the African Union and the Arab League.