Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi won Mauritania’s historic presidential election with 52,85% of the vote, the interior minister said on Monday.
Ould Abdallahi, who was backed by supporters of Mauritania’s ousted dictator Maaouiya Ould Taya and who has vowed to become a ”reassuring president”, beat Ahmed Ould Daddah in the second-round run-off of the poll.
Ould Abdallahi, a 69-year-old former government minister, is the West African country’s first democratically elected president since it won independence from France in 1960.
The election was the final stage of democratic reforms led by the military junta that ousted Ould Taya in August 2005.
After a constitutional referendum in June, local and parliamentary polls were held in November and senatorial elections in January.
”I hereby proclaim that the next president of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania will be Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi,” Interior Minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lemine told reporters.
Voter turnout in Sunday’s presidential run-off, which was held without major incident, was 67,48%, he said, slightly down from the 70% turnout in the first round of the election on March 11.
After coming out on top in the first round with nearly 25% of votes, Ould Abdallahi carried 11 of Mauritania’s 13 regions in the second round.
His opponent, longtime opposition politician Ould Daddah (65), meanwhile, triumphed in the capital Nouakchott and in his native Trarza region in the south-east, an Interior Ministry source said.
Both candidates are former political prisoners and exiles in the mostly desert country bordering Mali, Algeria, Senegal and Western Sahara.
Ould Abdallahi, supported by a coalition of 18 political groups once loyal to Ould Taya, had presented himself to voters as a consensus candidate who could get things done as his coalition has a majority in Parliament.
His quite demeanour has prompted adversaries to accuse him of weakness, while his supporters praise his mildness of manner, a trait they claim is essential for the leader of a multi-ethnic country still struggling with its history of slavery, only officially abolished in 1981.
Faced with Ould Daddah’s campaign promises for radical change, Ould Abdallahi vowed instead to become ”the reassuring president”.
”The majority opinion wants change, but is aware that the country is fragile and that change needs to come gradually,” he told Agence France-Presse before the first voting round.
The election went generally well, EU observer mission chief Marie-Anne Isler Beguin said on Sunday. ”Nothing has stopped the process. There have been no incidents, no unauthorised people in polling stations,” she told reporters. — AFP