Mauritanian Polls Close in Runoff Vote to Choose Legislators

Mauritania’s polling stations closed at 7 p.m. local time in a second round of legislative and municipal voting that most opposition parties are boycotting because they say the election will be rigged.

The election will bring “new blood and new dynamics” to the country’s politics, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said at a news conference today. Voting started at 7 a.m. local time.

Abdel Aziz’s Union for the Republic won a majority of seats in the first round on Nov. 23, according to the independent electoral commission. The opposition Islamist party, Tawassoul, came second.

Of 147 parliamentary seats, 27 will be decided in the runoff vote. In the municipal vote, more than half of 218 positions are contested, including the mayoral seat of the nation’s second-largest city, Nouadhibou.

Abdel Aziz led a 2008 military coup that ousted President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi a year after he was voted into office. Donors lifted sanctions following a 2009 presidential election won by Abdel Aziz.

The participation rate of 75 percent in the first round is disputed by a coalition of opposition parties, the Coordination of Democratic Opposition, which this week organized a protest march in the capital, Nouakchott, according to the state-owned Agence Mauritanienne d’Information. The coalition comprises 10 parties. Mauritania’s population is estimated at 3.8 million.

Africa’s second-biggest exporter of iron ore receives about 70 million euros ($94 million) from the European Union a year in return for fishing rights in its coastal waters that contain one of the world’s most important fish reserves. South Africa is the largest exporter of iron ore.

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