Mauritania’s ruling party is leading in local and legislative elections while a once-outlawed Islamist party looked poised to become the main opposition, preliminary results showed on Tuesday. The legislative vote, which was boycotted by 10 other parties, are the first since an army putsch catapulted Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to power in 2008. Abdel Aziz won a presidential election in 2009 and is now a Western ally in fighting al Qaeda in the poor and frequently unstable Sahel region of West Africa. Mauritania, a country of 3.2 million people, has reserves of iron ore, copper and gold and is seeking to encourage exploration in its offshore oil and gas sector.
Initial results from the Nov. 23 vote, the first and most important of two rounds, showed the president’s UPR party ahead, although it had not yet secured an absolute majority.
The UPR won at least 36 percent of the seats allocated for the future parliament, according to the electoral commission. But this number is likely to rise in a second round due to take place on Dec. 21 that will determine the remaining seats, which amount to about a fifth of the total. The UPR previously had 60 percent of all seats.