Mauritanian court confirms election win for government-backed candidate

FILE PHOTO: Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz waits the arrival of his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at Nouakchott airport, Mauritania, July 2, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - A Mauritanian court on Monday confirmed Mohamed Ould Ghazouani as the country’s next president, dismissing an appeal by opposition candidates over alleged voting irregularities in last month’s election.

The Constitutional Council ruled that the former general and defense minister, who has promised to maintain outgoing President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s focus on the economy and security, won 52% of the vote, as preliminary results had indicated in June.

“The candidate (Mohamed Ould Ghazouani) ... is proclaimed president, having acquired an absolute majority in the first round,” council member Haimoud Ba said at a press conference.

The largely peaceful election was the first in the history of the West African country to choose a successor to a democratically elected president.

But some opposition candidates questioned the credibility of the vote, sparking some small-scale protests in the capital Nouakchott. The government cut access to the Internet for days to help defuse unrest.

Last week, three losing candidates lodged an appeal with the Constitutional Council, citing instances of alleged multiple voting among other issues.

“Ninety-nine percent of the arguments are general allegations,” Council President Bathia Mamadou Diallo told reporters on Monday, explaining the decision to reject the complaints. “No proof was provided.”

Ghazouani succeeds Abdel Aziz, who took power in a 2008 coup, won elections in 2009 and 2014 and was a key ally of Western powers in the fight against Islamist insurgents in the Sahel region.

(The story corrects reference to president-elect in first quote.)

Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Edward McAllister and Mark Heinrich