Junta leader wins vote, opposition calls results 'prefabricated'
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General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who ousted Mauritania's elected leader in a coup last year, has won the country's presidency amid opposition claims the results were "prefabricated". The president-elect spoke to FRANCE 24 after the vote.
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz who led a coup last year against Mauritania’s elected leader Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, won outright Sunday’s election with 52.6 percent of the vote, the interior ministry said.
As supporters of Ould Abdel Aziz took to the streets to celebrate his victory, opposition leaders cried fowl and claimed election results were “prefabricated.”
The country’s constitutional court has yet to validate the results on Monday. According to the interior ministry voter turnout hit 64.6 percent in the first round, and Ould Abdel Aziz maintained there were no voting irregularities in an interview with FRANCE 24 late Sunday.
“We did nothing illegal to obtain those results. My supporters did not participate in fraud, did not cheat, did not falsify anything,” he said, “I stepped down from power in April so it is wrong to say I influenced the campaign and the election in any way.”
Speaking after the vote, the president-elect promised to fight disease and raise education levels in the semi-desert African nation. Ould Abdel Aziz also vowed “to fight terrorism in all its forms” in the wake of the murder of an US aid worker, which was claimed by an Al Qaeda offshoot.
Opposition cries foul
At a joint opposition press conference, the president-elect’s nearest challenger, Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, who scored 16.3 percent of the vote, dismissed election results. “The results which are starting to come out show that it is an electoral charade which is trying to legitimise the coup,” he told reporters.
With him at the press conference was Ahmed Ould Daddah, head of the main opposition party, who came in third with 13.7
percent of the vote.
A spokesperson for the anti-coup front said electoral lists had been tampered with and voters had used fake ballots and ID cards.
“Firstly, we firmly reject these prefabricated results, secondly, we call on the international community to put into place an inquiry to shed some light onto the electoral process,” the joint declaration of opposition parties said.
The main opposition candidates initially planned to boycott the poll but agreed to take part after lengthy negotiations.
Reporting from the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier said it was hard to believe an international inquiry was going to take place. “There are several international bodies which sent observers, such as the Arab League or the African Union, and they have already said they have not witnessed any election fraud,’ he said.
French MP Michel Sapin told FRANCE 24 he had joined a team of independent observers in Mauritania to witness the electoral process. “The opposition’s main criticism focuses on the way the election campaign was held,” he said, “I did not notice any flagrant irregularity on the day of the vote.”
Neither the European Union nor the United States, who cut aid following the 2008 coup, sent election observers to Mauritania. According to a diplomatic source, EU observers were not sent due to scheduling reasons.
Ould Abdel Aziz led a coup last August against the ruling regime and had ousted his predecessor Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, but he officially stepped down as head of the junta in April to contest Saturday's election.
In April, the EU froze aid to the East African state because of the coup, and said cooperation would only resume once there had been a "return to constitutional order."
Saturday's election was meant to restore democracy in Mauritania, which has mostly known military rule since independence in 1960, by restoring constitutional democracy to this arid, but potentially oil-rich country.