With counting completed in nearly all polling stations, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said the ruling party's Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won the election with 51.9% of the vote. This led Mauritania's government to declare victory. However, the opposition has said they could contest the results.
Ghazouani's nearest rival, Mohamed Ould Boubacar won 18.67%, and Biram Dah Abeid followed in third place with 16.4%. None of the three remaining candidates has more than 10%.
Ghazouani had already declared himself the winner in the early hours of Sunday in the presence of the current President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, his supporters and journalists. This is the first election in Mauritania's coup-strewn history to have a successor to a democratically-elected president.
The opposition was adamant about contesting the results if the ruling party won. "This seems like a coup d'etat," said Abeid, who was representing himself and the other opposition leaders. "We are united and will lead the contestation of the results." He was not pleased with Ghazouani announcing his win while counting was still ongoing, saying that the announcement "constitutes a falsehood".
Ghazouani's campaign was based on continuing economic and security progress made under the outgoing president who took power in a coup in 2008. Abdel Aziz won elections a year later in 2009 and was again elected in 2014 in polls boycotted by the opposition.
To many people's surprise, Abdel Aziz chose not to run in this year's elections after serving the maximum two five-year terms. One of the criticisms his reign has endured is failing to deal with slavery in Mauritania.
Despite slavery in Mauritania being abolished in 1981 and criminalised in 2007, the practice is still ongoing, with black Mauritanians being held as domestic slaves in the tens of thousands (according to rights groups) by Arabs and lighter-skinned Berbers.
Abdel Aziz has denied the claim several times that slavery in Mauritania is widespread. As a descendant of slaves himself, he partly campaigned on eradicating slavery in Mauritania. This is expected to be one of the issues his successor has to deal with.
Header Image Credit: Nau