Allies of Mauritania's ousted leader have united to back a presidential candidate in March's elections. Correspondents say this makes Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, an independent, favourite as the 18-party coalition holds a majority in parliament. Leaders of the military junta which seized power in 2005 are not standing.

A coalition of former opposition parties and independent candidates has won Mauritania's parliamentary elections, after a second round of voting on Sunday. Of the 95 seats in the new national assembly, an alliance of ex-opposition parties has won 41, seats while independent candidates have taken 39 others.

Provisional results from historic legislative and municipal elections in Mauritania indicated on Thursday (23 November 2006) that opposition parties that had defied the country's previous military regime had made a strong showing. The Rally of Democratic Forces (RDF), which struggled against former military ruler Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya, won 12 of 43 National Assembly seats in the 19 November polls.

Although the counting is still going on in the Mauritanian legislative and municipal elections, it is already clear that two former opposition parties - Popular Progressive Alliance (PPA) and Assembly of Democratic Forces (ADF) - are said to be neck-to-neck. The two parties probably swept the polls in the country's two most popular regions.

While not properly recognised, the once-persecuted Islamists are being tolerated in the electoral campaign going on in Mauritania. After Sunday's (12 November 2006) poll, Islamist candidates could enter the Nouakchott parliament for the first time, but the radicals find only a narrow audience among Mauritanians.