NOUAKCHOTT: Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has been re-elected for another five-year term with 81.89 percent of the vote, the head of the national election commission announced yesterday after a vote boycotted by most of the opposition.
Turnout in the June 21 election was 56.4 percent, Abdellahi Ould Soueid Ahmed told a news conference.
The former general, who seized power in the northwest African nation in an August 2008 coup, campaigned strongly on his success in fighting armed groups linked to Al Qaeda at home and in neighbouring Sahel nations.
Men and women voted separately on Saturday, in accordance with the country’s Islamic law, emerging from voting booths to stain their fingers with ink to show they had voted. One 70-year-old voter who gave his name only as Brahim said the country, wracked by jihadist violence up until 2010, “had found peace”.
“That’s important and I want it to continue because peace is irreplaceable.”
Kidnappings and attacks by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were frequent when Abdel Aziz came to power, but he boasts that he has turned his nation into a regional haven of peace thanks to his reorganisation of the military and security forces.
“The first point where Abdel Aziz’s success is undeniable is indeed that of security and stability in the country, driving away the spectre of the terrorist threat,” said Mohamed Fall Ould Oumeire, managing editor of the daily La Tribune.
The mainly Muslim republic, sandwiched between the west coast of Africa and the Sahara desert, is seen by Western leaders as a bulwark against Al Qaeda-linked groups. In 2010 and 2011, Mauritanian troops carried out successful “preventative” raids on AQIM bases in neighbouring Mali, before the armed fundamentalists could carry out planned attacks on Mauritania.
Abdel Aziz has also been heavily involved as head of the African Union in efforts to end conflict in Mali, which lost half its territory to Islamic extremists in 2012, prompting a French intervention to free the towns.Agencies