Mauritania has decided to hold parliamentary and local elections – the first since a military coup five years ago – despite opposition’s boycott.
The party of leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the Union for the Republic, is expected to retain power.
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was elected as president a year after seizing power
However, the poll is being boycotted by almost all the radical opposition parties. They have described it as an “electoral masquerade”.
The main Islamist party, Tewassoul, is taking part, but in what it has termed as a struggle against a “dictatorship”.
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was elected as president a year after seizing power, but Mauritania’s Islamist opposition have never accepted the result.
Western powers consider mainly Muslim Mauritania as a bulwark against the influence of al-Qaeda-linked groups in the Sahel region.
About a third of the country’s 3.4 million population are eligible to vote.
There are some 1,500 candidates from 74 parties representing the administration and “moderate” opposition.
They are competing for 147 seats in parliament and the leadership of 218 local councils.
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Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has been wounded in what is said to be an accidental shooting.
Officials say Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is now being treated for a light injury at a military hospital in the capital, Nouakchott.
Communications Minister Hamdi Ould Mahjoub said on national TV that a military patrol had mistakenly opened fire on the presidential convoy.
The minister added that President Abdel Aziz, 55, was injured in the arm and that his life was not in danger.
“On his way back to Nouakchott, the presidential convoy was shot by a Mauritanian patrol as they did not recognize his convoy,” Hamdi Ould Mahjoub said.
“The Mauritanian people can be reassured, the president is fine… He got out of the vehicle unassisted upon arrival at the hospital, where he walked in without difficulty.”
The hospital remains sealed off by security forces.
President Abdel Aziz came to power in a military coup in 2008 in the West African nation. He won presidential elections a year later held under an agreement with coup opponents.
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is seen by the West as a bulwark against Islamists in the region, particularly in neighboring Mali.