Mauritania’s ruling party candidate Mohammed Ould Ghazouani has won an absolute majority of votes in the country’s presidential election, the electoral commission said Sunday.
UPR candidate and former defense minister Ghazouani, 62, won 51.1 percent of the vote, according to data published on the National Electoral Commission (CENI)’s website.
Ghazouani has promised to transform national industries to create more jobs around the country’s natural resources. He has also promised that he would regularly meet with members of opposition parties represented in parliament if elected president.
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is stepping down, as is mandated by the constitution, after his two five-year terms. Saturday’s elections were seen as the country’s first democratic transition of power.
The country’s last elections in 2014 were heavily criticized for being unfair and were boycotted by many opposition parties. Then-incumbent President Aziz won by 84%.
The U.N.’s Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, “congratulates the Mauritanian people for holding a peaceful presidential election” in a statement released Sunday.
But on Saturday, opposition candidates held a press conference to call on citizens to take to the streets in protest if they believe the elections were not held fairly. Many Mauritanians were wary of the honesty of elections after the CENI refused calls to employ foreign observers.