Opposition rejects poll results in Mauritania

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The main challengers to Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the general who seized power in Mauritania in a coup last year, yesterday denounced the country's presidential election as a charade and demanded an inquiry.

Saturday's vote, the first since Mr Abdel Aziz ousted the Islamic state's first democratically-elected leader, was meant to show investors and donors that the former French colony in West Africa is ready to rejoin the international fold after sanctions were imposed.

With provisional results from 80 per cent of polling stations in last night, Mr Abdel Aziz, who resigned from the army before the ballot, was leading with 52.3 per cent and on course to secure a first-round victory, the independent election commission said. However, the four leading opposition candidates said in a statement: "We firmly reject these prefabricated results [and] call on the international community to put in place an inquiry to shed some light on the electoral process."

Neither the UN nor the EU sent observers, but an African Union team said turnout was high and called the election transparent. Mauritania has been led by a democratically-elected leader for just a year since achieving independence in 1960.