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Mauritania - 2014 Election - President

In October 2012, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was injured by accident by shots fired by the Mauritanian army. Evacuated to France, he returned to Mauritania the following month.

The ruling Union for the Republic (UPR) won a large majority in parliamentary and local elections in November 2013, which were boycotted by the opposition. It was the first time legislative polls had been held since President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz took power in a coup in 2008. The vote went forward despite a boycott by 10 out of 11 of the parties in the radical-opposition coalition, who called the vote an “electoral masquerade”. The election commission said that turnout was at 60 percent, and the Union for the Republic, the presidential party, which obtains 75% of the seats.

As the Coordination of the Democratic opposition refused to take part in the elections, Tawassoul took the lead of the parliamentary opposition. Tewassoul is associated with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and is slightly more moderate than the country’s most extreme jihandist fringe. It is the only member of the radical 11-party coalition Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) to take part in the poll.

The Islamist party nevertheless rallied to the opposition boycotts during the June 2014 presidential election. Polls in Mauritania opened 21 June 2014 in a presidential election that incumbent Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was expected to win amidst a widespread boycott called by the opposition. The ex-army general, who seized power in the northwest African nation in a coup in August 2008, campaigned strongly on his success in fighting armed groups linked to al Qaeda at home and in neighboring Sahara nations. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz got 82% of the vote, against 9% to Biram Dah Abeid, president of the Resurgence Initiative Of the abolitionist movement in Mauritania, 5% to Boidiel Ould Houmeid of the el-Wiam party and 5% to Ibrahima Moctar Sarr. The participation, from 65% in July 2009, officially amounted to 57% in June 2014.

Kidnappings and attacks by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were frequent when Abdel Aziz came to power, but he boasted he has turned his nation into a regional haven of peace thanks to his reorganisation of the military and security forces. The mainly Muslim republic, sandwiched between the west coast of Africa and the Sahara desert, is seen by Western leaders as a bulwark against al Qaeda-linked groups. Abdel Aziz had also been heavily involved as head of the African Union in efforts to end conflict in neighbouring Mali, which lost half its territory to Islamic extremists in 2012, prompting a French intervention to free the towns. He also mediated between separatist Tuareg rebels and the government in Bamako.

But opposition critics argued that the price of peace has been authoritarian rule and have decided to boycott a vote that they regard as an “electoral sham” over the way it is being organised. The National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU) -- an opposition coalition of 11 parties including a moderate Islamist movement—has rallied to denounce Abdel Aziz’s “dictatorial power” and counted on a high abstention rate.

The Mauritanian electoral commission said 23 June 2014 that Aziz won with nearly 82 percent of the votes, while the next closest candidate obtained just under 9 percent of the ballot. The commission said turnout in the June 21 election had been at 56.5 percent.

Upon his inauguration in August 2014, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz committed to addressing the concerns of the most deprived and fighting corruption. He also said that he would not seek to amend the Constitution, which forbade him to re-represent at the end of his term of office.

Abdel Aziz faced four challengers who highlighted many of the country’s sensitive issues such as complex race relations between black Mauritanians and the dominant Arabs. The only candidate from the black African south is Ibrahima Moctar Sarr, who argues that non-Arab Mauritanians are “marginalised and victims of injustice”. Another contender is Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, head of a movement to end slavery which, while officially abolished in 1981, persists as a deeply entrenched practice documented by rights groups. Himself a descendant of slaves, Ould Abeid proclaimed himself “the sole candidate drawn from disadvantaged levels of the people”.

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