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Africa
Mauritanians to elect new president
Leader of last August's coup among favourites in Saturday's election.
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2009 08:42 GMT

Supporters of Aziz expect him to bring
about real change [AFP]

Mauritanians are set to vote in a presidential election a year after the overthrow of the country's first elected president.

General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who led the August coup and resigned from the army in order to contest the election, is among the favourites in Saturday's vote.

But observers believe that no candidate is strong enough to emerge winner from the first round and that a second round run-off is likely on August 1.

At least 1.2 million of the nation's three million people are eligible to vote.

The election follows an  internationally-brokered bid led by Senegal to end a political crisis in a country twice the size of France.

Aziz's biggest challengers are Ahmed Ould Daddah,  head of the main opposition party, the Rally of Democratic Forces; Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, a parliamentary speaker and the candidate of the National Front for the Defence of Democracy, and Jemil Ould  Mansour, leader of the Islamist party Tewassoul.

Talk of change

Sghaier Ould MBareck, a former prime minister, earlier this month announced that he was withdrawing his candidature to support Aziz, who overthrew president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi in the August coup.

In all, nine candidates are standing in the election, designed to restore constitutional democracy to the northwestern African country.

Aziz, a self-styled "candidate of the poor", told his supporters during campaigning that he would "put an end to the waste and all the shocks that have brought Mauritania to its knees after several decades of misrule".

Each main candidate has attempted to broaden their support base with talk of real change, economic and social progress and development in the largely arid nation on the southwestern side of the Sahara.

Source:
Agencies
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