Mauritanians are voting Saturday in general and local elections viewed as a key test of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s record with the international community calling for a credible and peaceful vote. The mobile phone market in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott never sleeps. Under faded umbrellas to protect them from the searing Saharan sun, traders nimbly switch SIM (subscriber identification module) cards and replace overheated phone batteries. In a country with a scarce telecom infrastructure and its approximately 4.5 million strong population spread across vast, often inhospitable terrain, mobile phones are a lifeline in this impoverished West African nation.
Mauritania, a frontline state in the Sahel’s fight against jihadism, goes to the polls on Saturday for triple elections that will test head of state Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s record seven months before a presidential vote. A record 98 parties will take part in legislative, regional and local elections for which more than 1.4 million people are registered. Potential run-off elections would take place on September 15. Aziz, 61, came to power in a coup in 2008. He was elected in 2009 and again in 2014 for a second five-year term. He has been frequently accused by opposition figures and NGOs of rights abuses, including the arrest of a former senator and the “secretive” detention of a blogger accused of blasphemy.
Mauritania has joined Senegal in abolishing the Senate, its upper legislative chambers. It was one of the decisions made by voters in a referendum conducted at the weekend. The voters also decided to alter their national flag, the electoral commission announced on Sunday, in a clear victory for President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz the day after the vote. While turnout was 53.73 percent, 85 percent of voters on Saturday declared “Yes” to changes put to a referendum when they were defeated in the Senate in March, despite fierce criticism from a boycott movement that called mass protests during campaigning.
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.
Mauritania awaited the results of its presidential election on Sunday with incumbent Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz expected to win handily after his main rivals boycotted a process they regard as a sham. The former general, who seized power in the north-west African nation in 2008 coup, campaigned strongly on his success in fighting armed groups linked to Al Qaeda at home and in neighbouring Sahel nations. Men and women voted separately on Saturday, in accordance with the country’s Islamic law, emerging from voting booths to stain their fingers with ink to show they had voted.
Voters in Mauritania head to the polls Saturday to vote in presidential elections, widely expected to return President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to office. But the opposition remains hopeful. Mauritanians have a choice of five presidential candidates, including incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. His two main challengers are a prominent anti-slavery activist and the country’s second-ever female presidential candidate, both running as independents. Boydiel Ould Houmied, a member of a loyalist-backed party of former president Maawiya Ould Taya, and Ibrahim Moctar Sarr, a Black African who won five percent of the vote in the 2009 election, are also contenders. The country’s leading opposition coalition is boycotting the poll, claiming a lack of transparency and vote-rigging.
Former Mauritanian president Ely Ould Mohamed Vall on Tuesday called on local and international civil society groups not to recognize the country’s upcoming presidential polls in which incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz will vie for a second term in office. “These farcical elections will be supervised by a non-representative commission dedicated to serving the interests of one political party,” read a press statement issued by Vall. The June 21 presidential election is being boycotted by the National Forum for Democracy and Unity, an umbrella group of opposition parties ranging from social democrats to Islamists.
Mauritania’s president accused the opposition on Tuesday of buying up people’s identity cards in an attempt to prevent them from voting in an upcoming election. President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, an ex-army general, is seeking re-election in the vote this Saturday, and rival politicians have called for voters to boycott what they call a “sham” election. The president’s spokesman said the government had received reports that the opposition was buying identity cards “to influence the participation rate”.
Mauritania’s presidential election campaign began on Friday (June 6th). Five candidates are running in the June 21st poll, including President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. The sitting president will face off against Lalla Mariem Mint Moulaye Idriss, opposition party leaders Boidiel Ould Houmeid and Ibrahima Moctar Sarr, and anti-slavery activist Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid. Ould Abdel Aziz launched his campaign for re-election in the southern city of Kaedi, telling supporters that under his leadership, the country had made “great strides” in security and economic growth.
The race to be Mauritania’s next leader began on Friday, with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz expected to hold onto power in elections marred by calls for a widespread boycott. The ex-army general, who took over the former French colony in a coup in August 2008, has been head-of-state since he was officially elected the following year for a five-year term. He launched his campaign for re-election in the southern city of Kaedi, telling supporters that since he came to power the country had made “great strides” in security and economic growth. The mainly Muslim republic, sandwiched between the west coast of Africa and the Sahara desert, is seen by Western leaders as strategically important in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked groups within its own borders, in neighbouring Mali and across Africa’s Sahel region.
Mauritania’s ruling Union for the Republic Party (UPR) has won a ruling majority in parliament after a second round of legislative elections, issued results show. The UPR party entered Saturday’s election with a secured victory in the November 23 first round after a boycott by several opposition parties – who insisted that they would not be fair – in the mainly Muslim republic, a former French colony on the west coast of the Sahara desert. According to Sunday’s results, which decided an outstanding 26 seats, the UPR held 74 seats in the 147-member National Assembly.
Mauritania’s ruling party is leading in local and legislative elections while a once-outlawed Islamist party looked poised to become the main opposition, preliminary results showed on Tuesday. The legislative vote, which was boycotted by 10 other parties, are the first since an army putsch catapulted Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to power in 2008. Abdel Aziz won a presidential election in 2009 and is now a Western ally in fighting al Qaeda in the poor and frequently unstable Sahel region of West Africa. Mauritania, a country of 3.2 million people, has reserves of iron ore, copper and gold and is seeking to encourage exploration in its offshore oil and gas sector.
Mauritania’s main Islamist party said on Monday the country’s parliamentary and local elections had been marred by “ballot stuffing” and other forms of fraud. Tewassoul president Jemil Ould Mansour told a news conference the party had found “serious irregularities” which could discredit Saturday’s polls, including “ballot stuffing in some places and the resumption of the vote after the count in others”. “We cannot accept this fact in any way and we have sent a delegation to the (election commission) to talk about it,” he said. He did not say which parties had benefited from the alleged ballot-stuffing, a form of electoral fraud in which people submit multiple ballots during a vote in which only one ballot per person is allowed.
Results from polling stations across Mauritania began to trickle in Sunday but the electoral commission said it wasn’t in a position to give an early picture of nationwide trends. The commission said counting had been delayed in many regions where people were allowed to cast their ballots after the official deadline, adding that definitive results from Saturday’s election would be made available “perhaps in the middle of the week.” State television has put the turnout at around 60 percent, a figure that, if confirmed, would severely undermine a campaign by a large swathe of opposition parties calling for a boycott of the polls.
Mauritania, a predominately Arab country that straddles North and West Africa, will hold legislative and local government elections on November 23 (first round) and December 7 (second round), which will be the country’s first full elections since 2006. These elections will replace officials of the national assembly and local governments (i.e. communes) who have continued to carry out their duties even though their elected terms ended, constitutionally, in 2012. Since gaining independence from France, Mauritania has had a turbulent history: the country’s first president and university graduate, Moktar Ould Daddah, who assumed power in 1960, was ousted by a military coup in 1978. Subsequently, Mauritania was rocked by several additional coups: in 1979, 1980, and 1984. In 1984, a general-cum-president — Maaouya Sid’ Ahmed Ould Taya — asserted control and constructed a dominant regime party, le Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social (PRDS). Akin to Egypt’s National Democratic Party, the PRDS dominated Mauritanian politics for the next 21 years until 2005, when Taya was deposed in a putsch led by two of his closest military advisors, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Ely Ould Mohamed Vall.
Mauritania’s ruling party and Islamist opposition group traded accusations of foul play on Tuesday as the campaign for the west African nation’s legislative and local polls drew towards its conclusion. The governing Union for the Republic (UPR) — overwhelming favourites to win Saturday’s elections — cast doubts over the funding of Tewassoul, a relatively new party fighting its first election. “This party has much larger resources than my party. We want to know where these means are coming from,” UPR national campaign director Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Jaavar said during a meeting in the capital Nouakchott. He demanded that Tewassoul leaders “set themselves apart from the Islamists who have committed a lot of damage in the Arab and Muslim world”. “No party has the right to appropriate Islam, which is the religion of all of us, for itself,” he added. Meanwhile Tewassoul, a self-styled moderate party legalised in 2007 that professes to hold different beliefs and goals from Mauritania’s jihadist fringe, hit back by accusing the UPR of illegally using public money to fund its electioneering.
Violence broke out between protesters against the upcoming parliamentary and local elections and the police in the capital city leaving many injured as tensions continue to rise. The protesters were chanting anti-election slogans and calling for the boycott of the elections by the 3,4million registered voters. The elections were to be held in October but later postponed to November after the opposition parties threatened to boycott it. The protesters were at the office of the election commission when the police tried to disperse them. They claim that the electoral process is not transparent. The elections are scheduled for November 23rd and the buildup to the event has heavily been criticized by the opposition. 10 of the 11 opposition parties forming the Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) have decided to boycott the elections.
Mauritanian police on Monday crushed a protest by hundreds of youths demanding a boycott of upcoming elections, wounding several. An AFP reporter saw police beat the activists and spray them with tear gas as they waved placards and chanted slogans outside the offices of the election commission in the capital Nouakchott, calling for a boycott of Saturday’s parliamentary and local elections. “The police violently attacked the demonstrators despite the peaceful nature of their movement, using tear gas and batons,” said Idoumou Ould Mohamed Lemine, spokesman for the Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) that organised the protest.
Mauritania holds nationwide elections next month overshadowed by a boycott of the entire “democratic” opposition — apart from an Islamist party calling its participation a struggle against “dictatorship”. The mainly-Muslim republic, a former French colony on the west coast of the Sahara desert, is seen by Western leaders as strategically important in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked groups within its own borders, in neighbouring Mali and across Africa’s Sahel region. Around a third of its 3.4 million predominantly Arab-Berber and black African people are eligible to vote in the first parliamentary and local polls since 2006, five years after the coup of junta chief Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who was eventually elected in widely-contested polls. At the close of election lists on Friday, around 1,100 candidates were registered to vie for the leadership of 218 local councils dotted across the shifting sands of the vast nation and only 440 for 146 seats up for grabs in parliament.
Mauritania holds nationwide elections next month overshadowed by a boycott of the entire “democratic” opposition — apart from an Islamist party calling its participation a struggle against “dictatorship.” The mainly Muslim republic, a former French colony on the west coast of the Sahara desert, is seen by Western leaders as strategically important in the fight against Al Qaeda-linked groups within its own borders, in neighboring Mali and across Africa’s Sahel region. Around a third of its 3.4 million predominantly Arab-Berber and black African people are eligible to vote in the first parliamentary and local polls since 2006, five years after the coup of junta chief Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who was eventually elected in widely contested polls. At the close of election lists on Friday, around 1,100 candidates were registered to vie for the leadership of 218 local councils dotted across the shifting sands of the vast nation and only 440 for 146 seats up for grabs in parliament.
Mauritania’s main opposition parties announced a boycott of November’s legislative election on Friday after talks with the government over preparations for the vote collapsed without agreement. The Coordination of the Democratic Opposition (COD) said after three days of talks with the government that 10 of its 11 member parties had decided to boycott the vote. The talks were the first between the two sides in over four years. President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz seized power in a 2008 coup in the Islamic republic, which straddles black and Arab Africa on the continent’s west coast.
In a phone-in conversation with the nation, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz reiterated his readiness to talk to the opposition and civil society. But some activists insist that no meaningful dialogue can occur without prior reforms.
“Some opposition parties pose certain conditions before the start of any dialogue, while these conditions are precisely the issues that must be addressed in the dialogue,” Ould Abdel Aziz said August 5th as he marked the second anniversary of his vote of confidence. “Through a reading of the political scene, it appears that the success factors of this dialogue exist,” said Mohamed Yahya Ould Horma, Vice-President of the ruling Union for the Republic (UPR).