The Mauritanian president has won re-election, electoral commission announced, in a vote that the major opposition parties boycotted.

The commission on Sunday night said that President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz won nearly 82 percent of the vote, while the closest candidate took only about 8 percent.

A group of the West African country's major opposition parties refused to participate in Saturday's election, calling it a sham, and Aziz had been expected to win.

The boycott appeared to dampen turnout, which, at 56 percent, was lower than in the last presidential vote.

Aziz has been a staunch ally of the West in the fight against al-Qaeda-linked fighters in West Africa.

The president's four rivals in the poll were former government minister Boidel Ould Houmeid; Ibrahima Sarr, a challenger from the 2009 vote; Mint Moulaye Idriss, an administrator at Mauritania's national press agency and the only woman in the race; and anti-slavery campaigner Biram Ould Abeid.

Mauritania has reserves of iron ore, copper and gold and is trying to boost investor interest in its oil and gas. However, it has long been plagued by political instability and military coups.

Abdel Aziz came to power in August 2008 when he ousted President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdellahi, the country's
first democratically elected president, whose short stint as leader was undone by fighting within his own party.

He then won a 5-year term in a 2009 poll that was heavily criticised by the opposition, some of whom still do not recognise the legitimacy of his election.

Western nations soon re-engaged with Mauritania's military, which has taken a strong stand against armed groups in the
country and neighbouring Mali.

Source: Agencies