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Mauritanians Express Expectations For New Government

  • Kari Barber

Mauritania's constitutional council has handed down official results confirming Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi as the winner of Sunday's presidential runoff, with nearly 53 percent of the vote. Kari Barber reports from Dakar that with the success of the recent elections many Mauritanians are hoping the new government will continue to lead the nation on the path toward democracy.

Mr. Abdallahi is to assume power in less than three weeks, taking over from the military junta that overthrew longtime President Maaouiya Ould Taya in a 2005 coup. Many Mauritanians are eager for a government that can unify the country and move it forward.

Mbaye Sylla, a factory worker in the capital Nouakchott, says he has been happy with the military rule and he would like President-elect Abdallahi to continue the work the junta started.

Sylla says he hopes the president-elect will work toward political, social and other reforms as well as fight poverty and corruption.

Mauritanian teacher Fara Ba says he hopes Mr. Abdallahi will build solidarity in the ethnically and racially diverse nation.

In campaign speeches Mr. Abdallahi vowed to fight slavery, which many say persists despite laws against it, and enable refugees to return to Mauritania.

Ba also says he wants the government to include members of the opposition.

Ba says the government should be open to everybody, including the opposition, because, he says, the country is at a delicate point in its formation as a democracy.

An editor at the publication Jane's Country Risk, David Hartwell, says Mr. Abdallhi's government is likely to be a broad-based coalition, but unlikely to include opposition parties.

Hartwell says what Mr. Abdallahi and the new government will be seeking once they enter office is more international respect.

"What Mauritania would like to do is to raise its profile a lot more and to not be seen as sort of a recipient state but rather a country that is able to stand on its own two feet," he said.

Hartwell says it is uncertain how the transfer of leadership from military to civilian rule will take place.

"It seems they will just essentially hand over power to President Abdallahi. It could literally be as straightforward as that. There really is not precedent for this in Mauritania," he said.

Mr. Abdallahi, an economist, is scheduled to be sworn into office on April 19.

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