Mauritania: Opposition cries foul over Military Junta’s electoral victory

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Gen Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, who led a military coup in 2008 and ousted Mauritania’s only democratically elected leader, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, has conducted and won Mauritania’s presidential elections, it has emerged. Despite cries of fraud by the opposition, Gen. Abdelaziz insist he won cleanly.

The military junta claimed 52% of the vote in Saturday’s poll, it is reported. Opposition groups in the country have claimed that the elections were conducted only to legitimize the coup d’état of Gen Abdelaziz. “We firmly reject these prefabricated results, secondly we call on the international community to put in place an inquiry to shed some light on the electoral process,” a statement from the group of four opposition challengers read.

The opposition is set to formally submit its complaints which includes allegations that the military junta handed out ballots pre-marked in Gen. Abdelaziz’z favor and paid voters to cast them. The general is also accused of fabricating false identity cards and illegally inflating voter lists.

Gen. Abdelaziz in his victory speech, insisted that his staff and supporters had not committed any fraud. He said the vote could not have been rigged because results from each polling station had to be approved and signed by rival parties before being forwarded to the electoral commission headquarters.

Ousted president Mr. Abdallahi was Mauritania’s first democratically elected leader. He came into power in 2007 after a coup that was instigated by Gen Abdelaziz, two years earlier. Mr Abdallahi, while he was president, tried to dismiss four senior army officers, including Gen. Abdelaziz who was the head of the presidential guard.

Gen Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz went on to launch a coup against the president in August last year. After taking over the country, the junta put the ousted president Mr. Abdallahi under house arrest. Former colonial power France and the US canceled their aid to the country until the ousted president was released in December 2008.

The Junta promised to hold elections by June 2009, but when he declared to run in the elections, the African Union (AU) imposed sanctions on him, including a travel ban and a check on bank accounts.

Gen. Abdelaziz describes himself as a defender of democracy. According to him, he staged the coup only to prevent the country from going back to a past era of repressive rule – which he helped end with a coup in 2005. Mauritania has a long history of coups, with the military involved in nearly every government since its independence from France in 1960.

The country is dominated by light-skinned Arabic-speakers known as Moors, reports claim that slavery and black discrimination is still practiced in the country.

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