Mauritania heads to polls to elect new president
Vote is seen as first democratic election in Mauritania since it gained independence in 1960
Voters in Mauritania went to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president in the northwestern African country.
Around 1.5 million Mauritanians are eligible to cast ballot in the polls, which is seen as the first democratic election in the country since Mauritania gained independence in 1960.
Polling stations opened at 07:00 a.m. local time (07:00 GMT) and will close at 07:00 p.m. (07:00 GMT).
Six candidates are vying in the vote to replace incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who seized power in 2008 and went on to win election in 2009 and 2014.
Former Defense Minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Ghazouani and a close ally of the current president is the frontrunner in the vote.
The five other candidates include former Prime Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar, who is backed by several Islamic-leaning political parties.
Voters were seen queuing outside polling stations in Nouakchott in the first hours of the polls, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter.
While casting his ballot in Nouakchott, Ould Abdel Aziz called on Mauritanians to elect a “president capable of leading the country to safety”.
“I appeal to all Mauritanians to realize the importance of maintaining security, away from the speeches of division, violence and racism,” he told reporters.
Opposition candidate Ould Boubacar, for his part, cast doubts about the integrity of the vote.
“The polls were marred by many flaws,” he told reporters after casting his vote in Nouakchott.
He cited the absence of foreign monitors and lack of transparency in appointing heads of polling stations as among the flaws in the electoral process.
If Saturday's election ends with no clear winner, a run-off vote will be held on July 6.
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