In Mauritania, elections are being held this weekend for the first time in five years after a coup installed Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz as the country's leader. Aziz's party is expected to retain control, in part thanks to an opposition boycott by Islamist groups who content the election is rigged and Aziz is a dictator.
The BBC said Aziz's government has been a bulwark of opposition to al-Qaida extremists in the region and has cooperated with western countries in fighting terrorists.
Aziz was formally elected more than a year after seizing power.
The BBC said about one-third of the nation's 3.4 million people are eligible to vote, and about 1,500 candidates from 74 parties are seeking 147 seats in parliament and control of 218 local governing councils.
In neighboring Mali, voters will be casting ballots Sunday following a rocky two-year span that included a Taureg rebellion in the north that led to al-Qaida taking control of part of the country for nine months. That coincided with a military coup in the south, toppling the country's recognized government.
Voters in that country turned out in record numbers in July and August to elect longtime opposition figure Ibrahim Boubacar Keita president. The election will fill out seats in the nation's general assembly.
Turnout is expected to be much lower this time around, Voice of America reported.
Security in the north remains a concern with French troops assisting Malian and other African forces in hunting down remaining al-Qaida militants in the region.