A challenger in Mauritania’s presidential election alleged fraud after partial results Sunday showed an ex-junta leader headed for victory.
Former Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was leading the nine candidates in early returns, according to the state-run Mauritanian Information Agency. The exact figures were not immediately available. A campaign official for Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, one of the main contenders, said the election was fraudulent and reiterated his confidence in the camp’s victory. Boulkheir will recognize all election results if the vote is credible, but any other scenario will be vigorously rejected, Yahya Ould Sid’Elpoustaph told reporters. Counting was under way in the Islamic republic in northwest Africa, which went to the polls Saturday. The election is expected to restore power to civilian rule. Aziz came to power after a military coup ousted President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi in August 2008. The coup drew harsh criticism from U.S. officials, including then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “We oppose any attempts by military elements to change government through extra-constitutional means,” Rice said in a statement at the time. “We call upon the military to release President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi … and to restore the legitimate, constitutional, democratically elected government immediately.” The nation of 3 million, which has had multiple coups since its independence in 1960, is not an exception. In the past year, other countries in the continent, including Madagascar and Guinea, have forcibly removed their leaders. Mauritania’s election was scheduled for June, but was later moved to July to allow more time to campaign. Abdallahi did not make another run.