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Voting Ends in Mauritania


Voting has ended in Mauritania's presidential election. The voting has been accompanied by allegations of irregularities.

Votes will be counted through the night, as the transparent ballot boxes are emptied throughout Mauritania. Initial results will be made available through the evening, and a final result could be available as early as Saturday.

No official domestic or international observers have been in Mauritania to oversee the electoral process.

The campaign team of the leading opposition candidate Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah says the day was marked by irregularities, such as the late opening of polling stations in poorer districts of the capital that are widely seen as opposed to President Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya.

One of the campaign aides, Hassan Lebatt, says there was massive fraud in the interior of the country. From the camp of another key opposition figure, Ahmed Ould Daddah, came lists of irregularities that they say compromised the legitimacy of the day's voting.

A government spokesman, Imam Cheikh, refuted the allegations.

"He's lying when he says that, because the declaration has been distributed at 9:00 a.m., and it was impossible for Mr. Ould Daddah to know what is going on inside the country at nine o'clock," he said.

The government accused opponents of seeking to derail the democratic process and discredit the elections for their own advantage.

Voters selected a candidate by placing the appropriate bright colored piece of paper in a sealed envelope. The envelope was then placed in a transparent ballot box.

An electoral official at one polling station, Saddama Ould Abhour, explains the transparent voting box signifies the transparency of the electoral process, that all candidates have the same chance of success.

"Everybody is beginning at the same place at the same time," he said. "Everybody has the same chance of success and we will congratulate him, no matter what he is."

But as the sun began to set, and Mauritanians attended evening prayers and prepared to end the daily Ramadan fast, the task of counting the nearly three million ballots lay ahead. The opposition has vowed to challenge the results, if one of its candidates does not win.

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