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.
He has said several times he will not seek a third mandate, something that would be against the West African country’s constitution. But statements by his ministers and supporters have allowed opposition suspicions to flourish.
A lacklustre campaign ends on Friday, after rallies that drew sparse attendance despite a decision by the opposition to end a long electoral boycott.