Mauritania's president Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani on Friday kicked off the campaign for June 29 elections he is favourite to win.

The 67-year-old is tipped for a second term as head of the country of 4.5 million that lies strategically between north and sub-Saharan Africa.

Thousands packed a stadium in the capital Nouakchott for the launch of his re-election bid, an AFP correspondent saw.

The president pledged to "step up" his social welfare policy for the poor, saying more than 1.5 million people had benefited already from housing and financial help during his first term.

He saluted the presence of former senior opposition figures who now support the president.

"The result of this policy of political appeasement with opponents is a great achievement for us and no one is any longer troubled for his opinions," he said.

Tents have been put along the city's main thoroughfares and songs to the glory of the seven candidates have started to be heard for the campaign, which closes on June 27.

Among those runnng are the leader of the Islamist party Tewassoul, Hamadi Ould Sid' El Moctar, and human rights activist Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, who came second behind Ghazouani in 2019.

The opposition has condemned a "one-sided election" and accused the CENI election commission of "doing nothing to ensure the smooth working" of the election processes.

It has called for biometric checks of voter names for the ballot, but the commission said that was impossible in the time left and very expensive.

The constitutional council did not accept the candidacy of previous president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is in prison for embezzlement, which he has always denied.

Mauritania was hit by a series of coups from 1978 to 2008, before the 2019 election marked the first transition between two elected presidents.

While jihadism has spread elsewhere in the Sahel, particularly in neighbouring Mali, Mauritania has not seen an attack since 2011.