- The political dust has finally settled in Mauritania where the electorate voted a former Minister, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, to power. Mr Abdallahi defeated a long-standing opposition leader, Ahmed Ould Daddah, in the second round polls. He will take the oath of office on 19 April.
Describing the polls as historic, the Mauritanian Interior Minister, Mohamed Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lemine, disclosed that Mr Abdallahi swept 53 percent of the votes in the Sunday's polls while his opponent scored 47 percent.
19 candidates took part in the first round of voting two weeks back.
The Interior Minister said the elections were conducted in excellent condition and that the turnout figure stood at 67 percent. According to Article 26 of the constitution, the Interior Ministry is vested with powers to declare the provisional elections results without delay.
However, the constitutional council is mandated to confirm and declare the final results after examining complaints.
Free and fair elections had not been held in Mauritania since it attained independence from France in 1960. The ruling party has regularly been accused of rigging polls.
But this last election is seen as an exception. It followed the overthrow of a dictator, President Sid Ahmed Ould Taya, by a military junta in 2005.
The Chief of European Union observer mission, Marie-Anne Isler Beguin, endorsed the electoral process because there were no reported irregularities.
The 68-year-old Mr Abdallahi won the polls after he had galvanised massive support from a coalition of 18 parties that were previously loyal to the former authoritarian President Maaouya Ould Taya, who was driven out of power by the current military junta. During his second round campaign, Mr Abdallahi got the support of some first round candidates and anti-slavery campaigners.
The President-elect lost to his opponent in the capital Nouakchott and Trarza, the home of Mr Daddah. Mr Abdallahi won in the country's other 11 regions.
Mr Abdallahi's victory has once again dashed Mr Daddah's hopes to lead the desert country. The 65-year-old economist unsuccessfully challenged Mr Taya in the rigged polls in 1992 and 2003.
During their televised debate, the two finalists had all of things in common: they belong to the White Moor (Hasaniyya) elite group and both were jailed by the former military leaders. Both agreed on finally addressing the widespread discrimination of the country's other major ethnic group, the so-called "Black Moors" or black African population, which to some degree still is suffering from slavery.
Mauritania has banned slavery since 1981 but the menace still remains in the country, with black Africans becoming the victims. While Mr Abdallahi promised to criminalise slavery, his contender offered compensation for slaves and penalties for those who persist to end slavery.
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