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Ruling party presidential candidate and former Defense Minister Mohamed ould El Ghazouani cast his ballot in Nouakchott, Mauritania, Saturday June 22, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Nouakchott, Mauritania - The candidate chosen by Mauritania’s outgoing president has claimed victory only hours after polls closed. Mohammad Ould Al Ghazouani is a retired general who served as Mauritania’s defence minister before being chosen as the heir apparent to retiring President Mohammad Ould Abdul Aziz.

The handover will mark the first peaceful one since Mauritania’s independence from France nearly 60 years ago though the election’s outcome was widely predicted.

Abdul Aziz was barred from seeking a third term under the constitution.

Al Ghazouani campaigned on his security credentials and the outgoing president’s record on fighting extremists.

Mauritania, a moderate Islamic republic, borders the volatile nation of Mali where extremist attacks are frequent.