The Mauritanian legislative and municipal elections are being held at a moment of national disunity. A number of challenges have caused the vote to be postponed several times in the past. Finally the government has decided to go ahead with it, despite a vote boycott by some of the major opposition parties. The results could be ominous to national unity. Mauritania is one of the least developed nations in the Sahel region of Africa. It has not yet emerged from years of political instability after a series of military coups and failed democratic processes, the result of which is extreme polarization within the political class. Hundreds of small parties are crowding the arena and vying for dominance. None of them has a clear programme or a distinct ideology. They keep switching sides between the ruling party and the main opposition bloc, thereby creating unstable and unreliable alliances. Moreover, there is a deep and long standing mistrust between the ruling party, the Union for the Republic (UPR) and the hardline opposition party, Coordination of the Democratic Opposition (COD). In 2009 the two sides engaged in an unsuccessful political dialogue in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, following the 2008 military coup which led to the ousting of a democratically elected president.
Within the present Mauritanian context, being what it is, one may wonder how a legislative and municipal election boycotted by a big part of the political class will help resolve the nation’s crises.
Initially the opposition parties categorically rejected the coup and demanded the return of the ousted president. The military, however, soon managed to choreograph a tactical deal whereby new presidential elections were held. The vote results were expectedly in favour of the head of the army who then reinstated himself, this time as a civilian president.
Subsequent attempts to hold national dialogue between various political formations failed, causing a long delay of the legislative and municipal elections. Each side has blamed the above failures on the other, further widening the gap between them. The two blocs seem, up to now, unable or unwilling to get over their rivalry, hence the extreme difficulty to reach an agreement on the ways and means to organize and conduct the elections.