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Campaigning Begins in Mauritania


In Mauritania, campaigning has begun Friday for legislative elections later this month, the first since a military coup last year. The country's military is overseeing the process. International observers say they expect the vote will be free and fair.

With parliamentary elections scheduled for November 19, the military council ruling Mauritania is taking another step toward returning their country to civil rule.

Last August, army officers ousted then-President Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya. They established the Military Council for Justice and Democracy to run the country, and promised to hold presidential elections within two years.

Prior to the 2005 coup, elections had been held several times. But opposition parties accused the government of using fraud and intimidation tactics to win.

The ruling military council has promised that, in this election, none of its members will run as candidates.

In an effort to show transparency, the military has invited outsiders to monitor the campaign.

A total of 22 election observers from the European Union arrived in the country last week. An additional 60 observers will arrive in time to oversee the voting.

Ahmed Salem Boukhary, a journalist who has covered politics in Mauritania for 16 years, says the military has organized a high authority to ensure equal access to the media for all the candidates.

Many Mauritanians welcomed the coup that deposed President Taya last year. It was condemned by much of the international community, but there is support for the military's pledge to allow the country's transition back to democracy.

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