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Aziz Wins Mauritanian Presidential Election

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Mauritania's former military leader has won election as president.  Opposition candidates are rejecting the results of a vote meant to return the country to constitutional rule.

Supporters of General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz celebrated his victory, driving through the capital, hanging out of cars and waving campaign posters.

Final results from Mauritania's electoral commission show Aziz winning more than half the vote, making him president without a second round of balloting in which his main political opponents had vowed to unite against him.

With more than 64 percent of the electorate turning out for Saturday's vote, Interior Minister Mohamed Ould Rzeidzim says Aziz won more than 52 percent of the vote.

National Assembly President Messaoud Ould Boulkheir finished second with more than 16 percent.  Former Central Bank Governor Ahmed Ould Daddah was third with less than 14 percent.

In a victory speech at a downtown hotel, Aziz said he is now the president of all Mauritanians.

The man who claims credit for two military coups said democratic elections are now the only way someone should come to power in Mauritania.  Aziz congratulated voters for a peaceful election, and said they must work to resolve the political crisis and improve living conditions in the country.

Aziz toppled Mauritanian's first freely-elected leader 11 months ago.  He agreed to postpone an earlier vote in exchange for a power-sharing deal that saw his political opponents drop their electoral boycott to take part in Saturday's vote.

Boulkheir and Daddah joined fellow opposition candidates Ely Ould Mohamed Vall and Hamadi Ould Meimou in denouncing what they call an "electoral coup d'etat."

They want the international community to investigate what they say were voting irregularities including counting opposition ballots for Aziz.

But Interior Minister Rzeidzim, who was appointed as part of that power-sharing deal, said he has received no information that would lead him to question the vote.

Arab electoral observers say they did see irregularities, including partisan electoral officials and security forces inside polling stations.  But a preliminary report from the Arab Democracy Foundation says those irregularities did not affect the election.

Aziz says that if his opponents have any complaints about the vote, they should go to the Interior Minister and the nation's Constitutional Council.

This is a big win for Aziz as Boulkheir and Daddah had pledged to support each other in a potential run-off against him.   


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