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Mauritania Holds Senate Election in Post-Coup Process


The large sparsely populated desert country of West Africa, Mauritania, has held a senate election as part of a post-coup process to bring about civilian rule. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Nearly 3,700 municipal councilors voted to select a 56-seat senate Sunday, with results expected in the coming days.

This was the latest step in an electoral process that will culminate with a presidential election in March.

Local political analyst Racine Sy says Mauritanians are pleased with all the elections.

"It is something that is new, and during a lot of years they did not think that something like this could happen in this country to have free and democratic elections like this," said Racine Sy.

A regional observer, Bob LaGamma, with the U.S.-based group Council for the Community of Democracies, says democratic progress in Mauritania could spur similar advancement elsewhere.

"Mauritania is very significant in the broader context of democratization in Africa because it is kind of a border country that embraces both North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa," added LaGamma.

He expects the senate vote to be very competitive, like the legislative elections last year.

"One would reasonably expect that there would be a number of parties competing for power, no one of which will dominate and therefore compromise and coalitions may be in the future of Mauritania," continued LaGamma.

Political leaders Ahmed Ould Daddah and Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah both have parties which did reasonably well in the legislative election, and expect good scores in the senatorial vote.

They are also two of the main presidential candidates, in a crowded field.

A recent entry is Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, a descendant of former slaves. Slavery is still practiced in parts of Mauritania. Analyst Sy says Boulkheir will spur interest, but he does not believe he has an overall chance.

"I do not think he has a lot of chance to be a winner because you have two tendencies here, we have independent candidates, and we have also the traditional parties of the opposition," said Sy.

Leaders of a military junta that overthrew former strongman Maaouiya Ould Taya in August 2005 have pledged not to run. The deposed former leader remains in exile. His supporters have been competitive in the elections.