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» 20.07.2009 - Abdelaziz wins elections, opposition claim irregularities
» 05.06.2009 - Mauritania's democracy deal hailed
» 03.06.2009 - Mauritania election compromise reached
» 02.06.2009 - Mediators push for later elections in Mauritania
» 28.05.2009 - Mauritanian parties at the negotiations table
» 20.05.2009 - Thousands demand Junta to scrap elections
» 14.05.2009 - Mauritania editor narrowly escapes death
» 17.04.2009 - Mauritania's former ruling party: abort electoral process

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Mauritania's President-elect to "transform nation"

afrol News / IRIN, 28 March - Speaking at his first press conference after becoming President-elect, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdalahi said he would do all he could to "transform" his vast, desert nation. Mr Abdalahi next month is to take over power from a military junta that has revolutionised Mauritania with wide-ranging democratic reforms.

"[I plan to] build a country that conforms to the norms of justice and economic development" said the 69-year-old Mauritanian politician.

A formal transfer of power from the incumbent military government - led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Val who seized power in a coup last year - is expected to take place on 19 April, according to a government announcement made earlier this week.

Unlike all previous elections, this year's vote was widely regarded as totally free and fair, allowing Mauritanians to choose their president for the first time in the country's 46 year history. Members of the military junta were banned from sanding at this month's elections.

Provisional results of the runoff round held on 25 March, which were issued by Mauritania's Interior Ministry on Monday, showed that Mr Abdalahi won almost 53 percent against long time opposition leader Ahmed Ould Daddah.

Described by analysts as the 'consensus candidate', Mr Abdalahi, who has lived outside Mauritania for 15 years, was seen as something of an outsider in initial polling. He later won support from several prominent members of deposed President Maaouya Ould Taya's government and as well as from well known leaders in the opposition.

Yet because of his association with former Taya supporters, Mr Abdalahi's detractors have alleged that his victory means the military's influence will creep back into politics, a perception not helped by the army chief of staff Ahmed Ould Daddah issuing a statement congratulating Mr Abdakahi on his victory.

Mr Abdalahi devoted a portion of his speech to questions of racism which have dogged the country, dividing the dark and lighter skinned Arab Moors as well as the black African population into masters and slaves for centuries.

Referring to fighting in the country in 1989 and 1991, when scores of black Africans were expelled to neighbouring Senegal and Mali, he said he would work to build a peaceful democracy "founded on tolerance and acceptance [to] reinforce national unity."

One of the thorniest practical issues facing Mr Abdalahi is how he will share the country's newly found oil wealth, revenues from which have been mounting up in bank accounts under the current transitional government.

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