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The former defense minister of Mauritania, who was seen as the frontrunner in the country's presidential elections, has declared himself the winner on Sunday pending official confirmation by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).

Mohamed Ahmed Ould Ghazouani, 63, told a group of supporters that 80 percent of the votes cast in Saturday's election had already been counted and that his victory was so certain that a runoff – scheduled to be held on Jul. 6 – would not be needed.

He then went on to congratulate the Mauritanian people.

Sources close to CENI confirmed Ghazouani's victory to EFE, saying he had obtained around 50 percent of the vote, which would support the candidate's assertion that a second round of voting is unnecessary.

However, few observers had doubted that Ghazouani would win, as outgoing President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz had thrown his support behind his friend, who was a trusted minister in his cabinet.

Aziz, who came to power after a coup and was elected in later polls, has been in office for 11 years and did not run for a third time as the country's constitution establishes a two-term limit.

Some observers in Mauritania view Aziz's backing of Ghazouani's candidacy as an attempt to continue pulling the strings from the shadows.

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