Voters in Mauritania Prepare for Saturday Election



Voters in Mauritania go to the polls Saturday to choose a new president. It is an election to restore constitutional order following last year's military coup.

Friday is a day of reflection in Mauritania for voters to consider what they have heard from candidates over the past two weeks.

So what are people thinking?

This university student in the southern city of Rosso says former military leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is the right man to lead Mauritania because he is determined to fight corrupt politicians.

"I support him because President Aziz is a man of actions and thought," he said. "Most Mauritanian people support him because he came and tried to make dramatic change in this country, and we as people, we as poor people, we must go with him side-to-side and shoulder-to-shoulder."

Aziz led the coup last August that toppled Mauritania's first democratically-elected leader.

He refused African Union demands to restore civilian authority and changed the constitution to allow retired soldiers to run for office before resigning his commission to run for president.

Opposition candidate Ahmed Ould Daddah's campaign posters ask, "Do you want to be finished with coups d'etat?" Daddah is a former Central Bank Governor who says Mauritanians can end the cycle of coups and transitional governments in favor of a real democracy where decisions are made by voters not soldiers.

This Daddah supporter in the capital says Aziz is going to fall and break because of the electoral alliance between Daddah and opposition lawmaker Messaoud Ould Boulkheir.

Dadah and Boulkheir have both vowed publicly to support the other in a potential runoff against Aziz.  Boulkheir is a former president of the National Assembly who says this is a vote about defeating those who take power through military force.

This woman leaving Boulkheir's closing campaign rally says he is the one who will become president, God willing. She says he represents and supports all Mauritanians and is the one who can do things for the whole country.

More than 250 electoral observers from the Arab League and African Union are here to monitor Saturday's vote. Results are expected within 48 hours. If no one wins more than 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will face-off in a second-round of balloting August 1.

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