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.
Ould Abdel Aziz
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 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.
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.
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 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.