In March this year the West African country of Mauritania held its first open and fair election in decades. In August 2005, a bloodless military coup led by Col Ely Ould Mahmed Vall ended Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya’s 21 years of strong-arm rule. The military then peacefully ceded power and held elections in which members of the military were barred from running. Voter turnout was over 60 per cent, election moniters judged the election transparent and fair, and for the first time former slaves were in the running. Mauritania only abolished slavery in 1981. The well-known opposition leftist Ahmed Ould Daddah finished a healthy second, and for the first time the Presidential race is to be decided by a run-off vote.
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