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Mauritania Election Campaign Begins, 5 Months after Coup Attempt - 2003-10-22

The presidential election campaign in Mauritania is officially under way. The election is scheduled less than five months after an attempted coup.

Mauritanians will vote for a new president on November 7, which gives the six candidates 15 days to make their case to the electorate.

But before the campaigning officially began, opposition parties raised concerns about the transparency of voting procedures.

Candidates for the presidency include incumbent Maaouiya Ould Taya, who survived an attempted coup last June. The attempted coup was put down after forces loyal to the president succeeded in retaking the capital city, Nouakchott, from rebels. President Ould Taya came to power in a coup in 1984.

The man he deposed, Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla, who ruled Mauritania from 1980 to 1984, is one of his main rivals in this election.

Other key challengers are Ahmed Ould Daddah from the Rally of the Democratic Forces, and Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, a descendant of former slaves.

Two other minor candidates are competing for the presidency, Moulaye Hacen Ould Jeyed and the first woman to run as a presidential candidate in Mauritania, Aicha Mint Jeddane.

Mauritania is an Islamic republic and a member of the Arab League. It is made up of more than one million square kilometers of the western Sahara Desert and its 2.9 million inhabitants are mostly located in the capital Nouakchott, and Mauritania's only other city, Nouadhibou.