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.
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.
But the boycott movement drew broad political support from figures as diverse as religious conservatives and anti-slavery activists.
Members of opposition parties leading the boycotters held a press conference on Sunday during which they denounced an “electoral farce which has given way to open-air fraud,” adding that people “had clearly rejected the constitutional amendments.”