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Mauritania: Turnout all-important, with President poised for victory in boycotted poll

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Mauritania: Turnout all-important, with President poised for victory in boycotted poll

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With the result a foregone conclusion, all eyes were on turnout in Mauritania’s presidential election on Saturday.

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz can be certain of being returned to office for another five years, after his main rivals boycotted a ballot they claim is biased in his favour.

But he has struggled to secure a turnout high enough to give him a convincing mandate, with reports of between 30 and 50 percent at several polling stations in the capital, Nouakchott.

Among the four candidates who did run against him was anti-slavery campaigner Biram Ould Abeid.

Mauritania abolished the practice in 1980, but human rights experts say it is one of the few countries in the world where it still exists.

Mariem Mint Moulaye Idriss, an administrator at Mauritania’s national press agency, was the only woman in the race.

President Abdel Aziz came to power in an army coup in 2008, won an election the next year and is a Western ally against al Qaeda in West Africa’s impoverished and unstable Sahel region.

Riad Muasses, our correspondent in Nouakchott, says that despite the relatively low turnout – given the opposition boycott – this election looks sure to give the president his second mandate.