Mauritania has voted in favor of a referendum to abolish the senate and change the national flag in what the West African county’s opposition says is just a bid by President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to bolster power and extend his mandate. The referendum won 85 percent of the vote, the national electoral commission said on Sunday, though only a little over half of the population voted. The opposition, which boycotted the vote, said the referendum would give Abdel Aziz too much power over decision-making and pave the way for him to scrap presidential term limits. It said the vote was marred by fraud.
The capital Nouakchott was on high alert before the vote on Saturday due to opposition protests in the week before, though voting went ahead on Saturday without incident. A strong police presence was seen on Sunday, according to a Reuters witness.
Abdel Aziz, who last week described the senate as “useless and too costly,” has said the move to abolish the governing body would improve governance by introducing more local forms of lawmaking.