NOUAKCHOTT: Mauritania, a frontline state in the fight against extremism, went to the polls on Saturday in legislative, regional and local elections that will test head of state Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz’s record seven months before a presidential vote.
Military personnel cast their ballots Friday to free themselves up to provide security in the vast and arid west African state with a registered electorate of some 1.4 million.
There were no queues as voting began at 0700 GMT in the capital’s residential district of Tevregh Zeina.
“I voted for people I support in different parties including some from the ruling party and others in the opposition,” said a woman who identified herself as Fatimatou.
“It’s not easy,” she added after taking eight minutes to fill in the forms and deposit them in five different ballot boxes.
First results are not expected until the middle of next week. There are no international observers.
The opposition, which boycotted the last polls in 2013, is standing in the triple elections with a record 98 parties are taking part.
Potential run-off elections would take place on September 15.
Aziz, 61, who came to power in a coup in 2008, won elections in 2009 and again in 2014 for a second five-year term.
He has been frequently accused by opposition figures and NGOs of rights abuses, including the arrest of a former senator and the “secretive” detention of a blogger.
Aziz has said several times he will not seek a third mandate, which would be against the constitution, but statements by his ministers and supporters have allowed suspicions to flourish.
Final campaign rallies drew sparse attendance despite the opposition shelving its boycott.
Aziz has slammed opposition leaders as “villains” and “troublemakers.”
He has described some as “dangerous radicals, racist extremists and the leftovers of former regimes which brought the country to its knees.”
Earlier this week he accused radicals of “just awaiting their political failure to take up arms.”