Mauritania heads to the polls

Mauritania heads to the polls

Mauritanians vote in a presidential election Saturday, with incumbent Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani expected to win a second term at the helm of the West African state seen as a rock of relative stability in the volatile Sahel. 
   Around 1.94 million registered voters will choose between seven candidates
vying to lead the vast desert country, which has largely withstood the tide of
jihadism in the region and is set to become a gas producer.
   "This election is a turning point in the political history of Mauritania",
said Abdellahi Ewah, a professor at the University of Nouakchott and a
presidential supporter.
   The poll will allow "stability to take root", he added.
   While the Sahel has in recent years seen a string of military coups and
escalating jihadism, particularly in Mali, Mauritania has not seen an attack
since 2011.

   Experts say Mauritania's exceptionalism is down to an array of strategies,
ranging from conventional military counterterrorism, the recruitment of Imams
to preach against jihadist ideology, and the building of towns in remote
desert locations -- which could otherwise have become hotbeds for jihadist

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