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Aziz Wins Mauritanian Election, Opposition Leaders Denounce 'Electoral Charade'

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.

Final results from Mauritania's electoral commission show former General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz winning more than half of the ballots cast - making him president without a second round of voting in which his main political opponents had vowed to unite against him.

Aziz led the military coup that toppled Mauritania's first freely-elected leader 11 months ago. He agreed to postpone earlier elections in exchange for a power-sharing deal that saw his political opponents drop their electoral boycott.

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.

The Interior Minister says the elections took place in "very good conditions" and he congratulated voters for their "spirit of responsibility and their sense of civic duty". He says he has received no information that would lead him to question the outcome of the vote.

Boulkheir and Daddah joined opposition candidates Ely Ould Mohamed Vall and Hamadi Ould Meimou in denouncing what they called an "electoral charade, which is trying to legitimize" last August's coup.

They are calling on the international community to investigate what they say were voting irregularities, including counting opposition ballots for Aziz. The opposition leaders are asking that "competent bodies," including the country's Constitutional Council and Interior Ministry, not validate what they are calling "prefabricated results."

Their joint statement is urging Mauritanians to mobilize to defeat what they are calling an "electoral coup d'etat."

Arab electoral observers monitored more than 300 of Mauritania's 2,500 polling stations. They recorded irregularities, including partisan electoral officials, the presence of security forces inside polling stations and the denial of voters who registered after June 6 - most of whom support the opposition.

But a preliminary report from the Arab Democracy Foundation says it does not believe that any of those irregularities will affect the outcome.

It is a big win for Aziz as Boulkheir and Daddah both had publicly pledged to support the other in a potential run-off against him, if no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote.

Aziz ran a populist campaign, calling himself the "Candidate of the Poor," pledging to improve access to health care while lowering food and fuel prices. To the cheers of his supporters, he vowed to build more jails to imprison his political opponents who he says are corrupt.