Low turnout marks final round of voting in Mauritania

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A low turnout marked the second round of legislative and local elections in Mauritania, a frontline state in the fight against extremists, seven months before key presidential polls in the West African country.

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s Union for the Republic has already won 67 of the 157 seats in parliament at the first round of voting on September 1.

The Islamist Tewassoul party was in second place with 14 seats from the first round.

Tewassoul was one of several opposition parties to boycott the previous polls in 2013, but a record 98 parties took part this time.

There were another 22 parliamentary seats up for grabs on Saturday with the ruling party needing 12 more to secure an absolute majority in parliament.

Elections were also held Saturday for nine regional councils and 111 municipalities.

Afternoon rains lashed the capital Nouakchott, where turnout was estimated to be between 20 and 30 percent, according to the national election commission.

It put the national turnout at around 40 percent.

The president, who voted in Nouakchott, hailed the results of the first round, saying: “Mauritanians have voted for stability, development and progress”.

They had “rejected religious extremists and racists who have destroyed the country and tarnished the image of Islam around the world,” he said.

Mauritania is a frontline country in the fight against Islamist extremists.

Aziz, 61, came to power in a coup in 2008. He 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, and though he says he will not seek a third mandate -- which would be against the constitution -- statements by ministers and supporters have led some to suggest he might.

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