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Vote Counting Shows Tight Race in Mauritania


Vote-counting has started in Mauritania's post-coup legislative and municipal elections, and early indications are that opposition parties have done well in some areas.

Government officials and journalists say the compilation of early election results put former opposition parties in the lead in the two most populous regions of Mauritania.

In Nouakchott, the capital, the Popular Progressive Alliance was in first place. Messaoud Ould Boulkher, leader of that party, says the new administration will have a lot of work ahead.

"We aim to improve the situation for everyone," Boulkher says. He adds, "the majority of the population does not yet have clean water, roads or electricity. They do not even have access to good schools or a health system."

Journalists compiling their own results say the Assembly of Democratic Forces, party of Ahmed Ould Daddah, the leader of the former opposition, may also win several districts in the capital.

Daddah's party also holds the lead in Trarza, in southern Mauritania, near the border with Senegal, where journalists have also been tallying results from each polling center.

Islamist candidates, some running as independents, others in a centrist coalition, seem to be among the top vote-getters as well, says local journalist Salem Bokari.

But, he says, the former ruling party seems not to have fared as well.

"The former ruler party is in a third position. [It] did not win any municipalities of the capital, but [it] won some places in the municipal council," added Bokari.

Thirty percent of Mauritania's voters live within the capital and the southern Trarza region.

Hundreds of international observers monitored the campaigns and polling. So far, all reports have indicated that the process was transparent and fair.

Bokari says all parties involved agree.

"Yesterday, all the parties agreed that the election was free, and was correct. It will be the first time that we assist to [have] a free election and a transparent election," he said.

Mauritania has had a history of repeated coups and rigged elections since independence.

The most recent coup leaders have promised open elections, which will continue next year with voting for a new senate and new president. Members of the military council now ruling the sparsely populated and newly oil producing Mauritania have promised they will not run in any of the elections.

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