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.
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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