domingo, 19 de julho de 2009

Mauritania opposition rejects "prefabricated" poll (REUTERS)

By Vincent Fertey

NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - The main challengers to former coup leader General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, favourite in Mauritania's presidential election, have rejected Saturday's poll and called for an international investigation.

The vote was the first since Abdel Aziz's 2008 coup ousted the Islamic state's first democratically elected leader and is meant to show investors and donors that the country is ready to rejoin the international fold after sanctions were imposed.

"Firstly 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," the group said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Mohamed Ould Biya, a spokesman for the group, said electoral lists had been tampered with and voters had used fake ballot papers and identity cards during the poll to add to Abdel Aziz's tally. He did not provide any proof of his allegations.

Abdel Aziz has not claimed victory in the election but, in the run up to the vote, he repeatedly told supporters that he could win in one round, therefore avoiding a run-off.

The main opposition candidates initially planned to boycott the poll but agreed to take part after lengthy negotiations, a move which diplomats said would make the election more credible.

The group, which includes veteran opposition figure Ahmed Ould Daddah and Ely Ould Mohamed Vall -- another former coup leader, made its statement before results were announced.

Neither the United Nations nor the European Union, which has cut aid to Mauritania due to the coup, sent election observers to Mauritania. But the African Union team there said turnout was high and it called the election transparent on Saturday evening.

It is not yet clear when the official results will be announced.


Analysts had predicted a victory for Abdel Aziz but said the inclusion of Ould Daddah and Vall, whose 2005 coup was popular as it removed a long-standing military ruler, offered voters a genuine choice and stiffened the opposition.

Abdel Aziz has promised food and fuel price cuts, which were likely to win over many Mauritanians, 40 percent of whom live under the poverty line in a nation that exports fish and iron ore though hopes to ramp up off-shore oil production.

Mauritanian police clashed with suspected al Qaeda militants in the capital on Friday, weeks after the group claimed to have killed an American aid worker there.

The incident did not appear to be vote-related but it underscored the insurgent threat that Abdel Aziz had vowed to tackle and the United States had supported Mauritania's fight against until cooperation was frozen after the coup.

A free vote would set a positive example to the rest of the region, where military coups and constitutional crises have become a feature of politics in the past year.

But his rivals complained it has done the opposite.

"It seems quite clear to me that what we are seeing is a sham of an election," said Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, a politician who also took part in the election having spearheaded the challenge to Abdel Aziz's coup since August last year.

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