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Mauritania's Constitutional Council Upholds Win for Aziz

Mauritania's Constitutional Council on Thursday validated the results of last week's presidential election, showing a big win for former military ruler Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. But, opposition candidates wanted the results thrown out because they say the vote was rigged.

Mauritania's Constitutional Council says the Aziz victory stands.

Council President Abdellahi Ould Ely Salem says the constitutional court validated the results of Saturday's election because observers from each of the candidates signed the vote total forms submitted by each of the country's polling station.

He says the court's legal advisors, the Independent Electoral Commission, and the Interior Ministry concluded that the vote was valid.

The Council's decision cannot be appealed.

Opposition candidates who lost the election wanted the Council to reject the results because they say there was widespread electoral misconduct, including Senegalese nationals voting and members of the military casting more than one ballot.

The official leader of the opposition, Ahmed Ould Daddah, says the election was fraudulent. With the Council's decision, opposition leaders say they will meet again to decide their next move.

The European Union says the vote took place without major incident, but it believes that opposition allegations of electoral fraud "should be properly investigated" by Mauritania "in accordance with national law and international standards."

Mauritania's Electoral Commission Chairman, Sid Ahmed Ould Deye, resigned on Thursday, saying that complaints from the opposition have "sown doubts" in his mind about the reliability of the election.

Observers from the African Union and the Arab League say the vote was fair. Former colonial power France says there were no major anomalies. The Arab Democracy Foundation found partisan electoral officials among several of the irregularities it reported, but that none of the irregularities would affect the outcome of the election.

In his fourth and final run for the presidency, opposition leader Daddah won less than 14 percent of the vote. Under Mauritanian electoral law, he will be too old to run in the next election. National Assembly President Messaoud Ould Boulkheir finished second with a little more than 16 percent of the vote.

Both men were far behind Aziz, who official results say took more than 52 percent of the vote, making last year's coup leader this year's president without a second round of voting in which Daddah and Boulkheir had both pledged to unite against him.

Aziz toppled Mauritania's first freely-elected leader last August. He then changed the constitution to allow military reservists to run for political office before resigning his commission to declare his candidacy.

Aziz supporters say the former general will be inaugurated next week.