A woman covers her face while casting her vote during the presidential election in Nouakchott, Mauritania. Picture: Joe Penney

Nouakchott - Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has won another five-year term with 82 percent of the vote, officials said on Sunday, after an election boycotted by most of the opposition.

Abdel Aziz, an ally of Western powers in the fight against al-Qaeda-linked Islamists in West Africa, faced no major challenger to his rule in Saturday's election in his vast desert nation, which straddles black and Arab Africa.

Opposition parties also boycotted last year's parliamentary elections, saying the organisers were biased and the process flawed. Talks to persuade them to take part in Saturday's presidential election broke down in April.

Abdel Aziz's closest rival, anti-slavery campaigner Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, came in a distant second with nine percent of the vote, the head of the national election commission, Abdellahi Ould Soueid Ahmed, told a news conference.

Turnout was 56 percent, Soueid Ahmed said.

Abdel Aziz came to power in an army coup in 2008 and won a contested election the following year.

African Union election observers said Saturday's vote took place in a climate of relative peace and tolerance. The 46-member mission urged the government and the opposition to continue political dialogue after the election.

“We are appealing for a sense of responsibility from all political actors to preserve the peace which prevailed during the election,” former Tunisian prime minister Beiji Caid Essebsi, the head of the mission, told a news conference. - Reuters