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Former Mauritanian Ruler Haidalla to Run for President


A former Mauritanian ruler, who was ousted in a coup more than 20 years ago, has announced he will run in the presidential elections scheduled for March. But some say his return to power would be a step back for Mauritania. Kari Barber reports for VOA from Dakar.

Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla was ousted in a 1984 coup. The man responsible for his removal, Maaoya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya, went on to rule the country for the next 21 years.

Now, with Taya in exile, toppled by a military junta last year, Haidalla has announced he wants to return to power.

In 2003, Haidalla ran for president on an Islamic platform, but lost to Taya. Haidalla claimed election fraud.

Shortly after the election, he was accused of plotting a coup and barred from politics for five years. That sentence has been rescinded by the junta.

Journalist Salem Bokari says Haidalla has a base of support in the south, which suffered under Taya. But, he says the majority of Mauritanians see his return as a reminder of the country's history of political coups and instability.

Bokari says many do not think Haidalla, who seized power in a 1979 coup, and then was ousted by Taya in a bloodless coup in 1984, is capable of moving the country forward.

Bokari says he does not believe Haidalla has enough support to win the election. But he says Haidalla may affect the race by taking votes away from the front-runners, decreasing the likelihood of a majority victory.

The governing junta has promised to steer Mauritania toward democracy and pledged none of its leaders will run for president.

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