Mauritania goes to the polls on Saturday in a presidential election expected to be easily won by the incumbent Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
His biggest challenge will be to achieve a convincing turnout with all his main rivals calling for a boycott.
But Abdel Aziz believes the country’s fledging democracy is strong enough to handle the test.
Speaking at an election rally on Thursday he said:
“We have created an independent committee for these elections to increase democracy because we
believe in democracy.”
With no major rivals, Abdel Aziz has had ample electoral resources for his re-election bid and enjoys strong support.
“He’s achieved so many things and that’s why we’re behind him so we’re asking other everyone to vote for him,” enthused one woman at an election rally.
There have been seven coup d’etat since Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960 and Abdel Aziz’s critics say a boycott is the best way to protest against his continued rule.
Opposition protester Sheikh Ahmad Haidi told euronews: “This campaign against the regime is the only way to meet the ambitions of the people who want more democracy, justice and development.”
Our correspondent in the capital Nouakchott, Riad Muasses, says the scene is set for a story that has become all too familiar.
“These elections are strangely reminiscent of those in several Arab countries recently. The opposition calls for a boycott, a field full of weak candidates and a president who comes from the army and wants to remain in power.”