Second round of polls: Mauritania ruling party wins absolute majority


NOUAKCHOTT - Mauritania's ruling UPR party has won an absolute majority in parliament after a second round of legislative elections, according to results given Sunday.
The Union for the Republic party had gone into Saturday's election with already a victory in the November 23 first round after a boycott by several opposition parties in the mainly Muslim republic, a former French colony on the west coast of the Sahara desert.
According to Sunday's results, which decided an outstanding 26 seats, the UPR now holds 74 seats in the 147-member National Assembly. Allies from smaller parties push its total legislative muscle to 108 seats.
The opposition has 37 seats, 16 of them taken by an Islamist party, Tewassoul, taking part in elections for the first time.
Tewassoul claimed the election was marred by fraud.
Following independence from France in 1960 and the ensuing one-party government of Moktar Ould Daddah, deposed in 1978, Mauritania had a series of military rulers until its first multi-party election in 1992.
This latest election was seen as a test of strength for President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz five years after he came to power in a coup and four years after he won a widely contested vote.
Mauritania is seen as strategically important in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked groups within its own borders, as well as in neighbouring Mali and across Africa's Sahel region.