Mauritania’s President Ghazouani wins reelection, the electoral commission says

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has been reelected for a second term, the country’s electoral commission said on Monday, after positioning the country as a strategic ally of the West in a region swept by coups and violence.

Ghazouani, who campaigned on a pledge of providing security and economic growth, obtained 56.1% of votes, the country’s independent electoral commission said Monday. His main rival Biram Dah Abeid, an anti-slavery activist, received 22.1% of the votes. He rejected the partial results announced Sunday and called them a fraud.

The turnout was 55% of the two million eligible voters, the commission said.

The country’s constitutional court will now review the vote numbers and announce the final results, though it remains unclear when that will happen.

Saturday’s vote unfolded peacefully, according to observers.

“Nothing has been detected so far and the CENI has not received any complaints,” said Taghioullah Ledhem, the spokesman for CENI, the country’s independent electoral commission.

But some opposition candidates held a different view. The commission is made up of representatives of political parties and its president is appointed by the government, and some accused it of colliding with Ghazouani’s regime.

Abeid claimed that he was the real winner. The provisional results were an “electoral coup d’état” to help Ghazouani, he told a news conference Sunday. He accused the electoral commission of fraudulently giving Ghazouni thousands of votes “out of nowhere.”

Speaking hours later from his home in Riadh — a poor suburb of the Mauritanian capital — he called for civil disobedience against the government and appealed to the military and security forces not to “accept being used by the government against the people.”

“The battle is not over, we are not defeated,” he said. “The people are not defeated and will not be defeated, we are there to defend the people until the last drop of blood.”

Although his opponents accused him of corruption and mismanagement, Ghazouani, a former army chief, remains popular among Mauritanians who see him as a beacon of stability. The vote took place in a tense regional climate, with Mauritania’s neighbors shaken by military coups and jihadi violence.

Mauritania is rich in natural resources including iron ore, copper, zinc, phosphate, gold, oil and natural gas. It is poised to become a gas producer by the end of the year, with the planned launch of the BP-operated Greater Tortue Ahmeyin offshore gas project on the border with Senegal.

Yet almost 60% of the population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations, working as farmers or employed informally. With few economic opportunities for young people at home, many are attempting to reach Europe, and some are even trying to get to the United States through Mexico.

The African Union sent an observation mission to Saturday’s vote but have yet to release their statement.

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