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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 07:33 GMT
Opposition leads Mauritania race
Map of Mauritania
Opposition parties have won the largest share of seats in the first stage of landmark elections in Mauritania.

Sunday's parliamentary poll was the first since last year's bloodless coup ended 20 years of authoritarian rule under the former president.

However, more than half the seats need to be decided in a second round because no candidate gained the 50% of votes needed for an outright victory.

Military rule is due to end in March with presidential elections.

Islamists banned

The Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD) led by veteran opposition leader Ahmed Ould Daddah won 12 of the 43 seats declared.

Woman voting
Turnout was reported to be high
A further 52 seats will go to a second round of polling on 3 December.

Observers say Sunday's poll passed off without incident.

Members of the military junta which seized power were banned from contesting the elections.

Turnout was said to be high and long queues formed even before polls opened.

Voters were choosing 95 MPs and more than 200 local councils.

At least 28 political parties were competing to be represented in the National Assembly - although only five parties were considered to be front-runners.

But Islamist parties and movements, considered to be among the most popular in the country, were banned.

This resulted in many Islamist candidates standing as independents.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Mauritanians cast their votes



SEE ALSO
In pictures: Mauritania campaigns
18 Nov 06 |  In Pictures
Q&A: Mauritania elections
16 Nov 06 |  Africa



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