Government candidate and frontrunner Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has declared himself the winner of the first round of Mauritania's presidential election.
The 62-year-old former head of the domestic security service made the claim in the early hours of Sunday in the presence of current president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, his supporters and journalists.
A source at the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said Ghazouani had won 50.56 percent of the votes after 80 percent of the votes had been counted following Saturday's election, reported AFP.
"There is only 20 percent left (to count), but that will not change the final result," Ghazouani reportedly told supporters.
The CENI source said leading opposition candidates Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar, a former prime minister, and Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid had each garnered about 18 percent with the count continuing.
Both men had complained of balloting irregularities and the expulsion of representatives from some polling stations. However CENI said no major problems had been reported.
About 800,000 votes out of 1.5 million have been counted.
Ghazouani -- who campaigned on the themes of continuity, solidarity and security for the vast largely desert nation -- served as Abdel Aziz's chief of staff from 2008 to last year.
The election was the first in the sparsely populated Saharan nation’s history since independence from France in 1960 to choose a successor to a democratically-elected president.
Outgoing President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz surprised many of his compatriots and international observers by stepping aside after serving the maximum two five-year elected terms.