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    AU Observers to Release Report on Mauritania’s Disputed Election

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    • Scott Stearns, VOA West Africa Bureau chief Spoke With Clottey

    The African Union observer group to Mauritania's presidential election is scheduled to release its findings on the weekend poll Monday. 

    Mauritania's interior minister declared junta leader Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz winner of the election, crediting Aziz as capturing slightly more than half of the votes cast.

    But the opposition dismissed the result as a sham aimed at legitimizing the military action that ousted the country's first democratically elected leader.

    The opposition also called on the international community to institute a probe into the disputed poll.

    "Supporters of Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz spent much of the night celebrating his victory, honking their horns, driving around through the capital, hanging out of their cars, waving campaign posters. It was a big win for the former general, who came to power 11 months ago in a coup that toppled Mauritania's first freely elected leader,"  said VOA West Africa Bureau Chief Scott Stearns.

    He said divisions in the ranks of the opposition contributed to Aziz's big election win.

    "The interior minister said that Aziz won Saturday's election with more than 52 percent of the vote. That is significant because it eliminates the need for a second round in which the former general's political opponents had vowed to unite against him. They were not united…and that may have resulted in their defeat," he said.

    Stearns said the opposition flatly rejected the vote as a sham.

    "In denouncing what they called an electoral charade which is trying to legitimize last August coup. They called on the international community to investigate what they called were voting irregularities," Stearns said.

    He said some electoral observers say the irregularities claimed by the opposition didn't have a significant effect on Saturday's vote.

    "A group of electoral observers from the Arab Democracy Foundation said that they did witness many electoral irregularities, including the presence of security forces inside polling stations, which they said could intimidate voters…Even so, the preliminary report…said that they did not believe that any of those irregularities would have affected the eventual outcome," he said.

    He said the African Union observer mission is scheduled to release its report Monday after describing the election as relatively transparent, free and fair.         

    Some political observers say the vote was meant to show investors and donors that the country is ready to rejoin the international community after sanctions were imposed.


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