By Hademine Ould Sadi, AFP, Google News, July 19, 2009
NOUAKCHOTT — Coup leader Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz looked headed for a first-round victory Sunday in Mauritania's presidential election, but the opposition denounced the vote as a charade.
Already overnight Saturday Ould Abdel Aziz's supporters had taken to the streets of the capital soon after polling stations closed to celebrate his expected victory.
According to the partial results from the electoral commission with 80 percent of ballots counted, Ould Abdel Aziz enjoyed 52.3 percent of the votes.
Ould Abdel Aziz was the leader of the coup last August that ousted Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Mauritania's first elected head of state.
He ceded control as head of the junta in April and resigned from the army to contest Saturday's election.
But while he looked poised for outright victory, four of his opponents held a joint press conference to denounce what they called the "prefabricated results" of the election.
Parliamentary speaker Messaoud Ould Boulkheir told reporters: "The results which are starting to come out show that it is an electoral charade which is trying to legitimise the coup."
Ould Boulkheir, leading an anti-coup front, was his nearest challenger with 16.72 percent of votes.
With him at the present conference was Ould Daddah, head of the main opposition party, Ahmed Ould Daddah, who came in third with 13.86 percent.
Also present were Ould Mohamed Vall, the junta chief in 2005-2007, who scored 3.79 percent; and Hamai Ould Meimou, an independent candidate.
Their joint declaration called on the international community to carry out an independent enquiry into voting irregularities.
They also called on "competent bodies" such as the constitutional council and interior ministry not to validate the results, and for the Mauritanian people to "mobilise to defeat this electoral coup d'etat."
The electoral commission said voter turnout was 61.46 percent.
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.
Some 1.2 million of the nation's three million people were eligible to vote in the polls, which were monitored by international observers from the African Union, the Arab League and the association of Francophone countries.
After a lacklustre campaign, observers had thought no candidate would be strong enough to emerge with a first-round majority and that a second run-off vote would be likely on August 1.