Mauritania - 2018 Election - Parliament
Mauritania's ruling party led in legislative, regional and local elections held 01 September 2018. "The Union for the Republic is the leading political party according to provisional results" of the first-round September 1 vote, according to commission spokesman Mustafa Sidel Moktar. The party had so far won 67 of the 157 national assembly seats, compared to 14 for the second-place Islamist party Tewassoul, as well as four of the 13 regional councils and 108 of 219 municipalities, he said. The turnout was 73.4 percent, Mohamed Vall Ould Bella of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said on Saturday, in a country with a registered electorate of some 1.4 million. But in the lead-up to the vote, human rights groups such as Amnesty International have condemned the crackdown on dissent, including arrests of opposition figures, anti-slavery activists and journalists.
The United Nations human rights office expressed concern 03 August 2017 about the ongoing unrest in Mauritania, ahead of the constitutional referendum scheduled for 05 August 2017, particularly the apparent suppression of dissenting voices and the reported use of excessive force by the authorities against protest leaders. Violent clashes broke out ahead of the vote especially near the capital Nouakchott after authorities banned several rallies planned by opponents of the changes. Thousands continued to protest despite the violence and some of the demonstrations being partly shut down by security forces using tear gas and baton rounds
“Protests have been taking place daily since 21 July, led by opposition politicians calling for a boycott of the vote,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in a statement. “The authorities reportedly did not respond to the majority of requests for authorization for the protests and actively dispersed gatherings. In several cases, protest leaders were reportedly beaten up and a number of them were arrested,” she added.
In Mauritania, a constitutional referendum called by the President, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, was held on 05 August 2017. It approved the abolishment of the Senate and the establishment of regional councils, in addition to changes to the national flag, the national anthem and the composition of the Constitutional Court. The country's Senate had been critical of President Abdel Aziz's third term ambitions, which is against the constitution. The Senate's role has now been taken over by the new regional councils.
Several opposition parties and civil society organizations, which had campaigned for a boycott of the referendum, rejected its results. They argued that the referendum could pave the way for further constitutional changes to extend presidential powers and remove term limits. The President has repeatedly denied such claims.
Following the referendum, the opposition leader, Mohamed Ould Ghadda, who had been an outspoken opponent of the referendum, was arrested on allegations of corruption. A number of senators and journalists were also summoned and interrogated.
Mauritania, a member of the dormant Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), is seeking to return to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African regional economic grouping. The move was seen as an acknowledgement of the success of ECOWAS. But the groupings's high standards for governance and democracy may present some difficulties for President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, whose recent political maneuvers had been decried as an unconstitutional move to keep him in charge.
On 31 August 2018, the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: "The Secretary-General is closely following developments in Mauritania on the eve of the legislative, regional and municipal elections scheduled for 1 September. He urges all parties to ensure the holding of elections that are peaceful and credible and allow for the participation of all interested stakeholders. He calls on all parties to ensure respect of the rule of law and that the human rights of all Mauritanians are upheld."
Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Seyidi, head of the opposition National Rally for Reform and Development Party (“Tewassoul”) said opposition parties were taking part in the polls “despite the lack of transparency”.
Another issue of these elections was the case of Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid , a famous anti-slavery activist, currently incarcerated: "He made a bold bet for these legislative elections." To present himself, he has allied his movement with an Arab nationalist Sawab party, which goes against its electoral stronghold". Amnesty International criticized the "arrests and detentions" of two opponents and anti-slavery activists as "the worst signals of intimidation, harassment and repression by the Mauritanian authorities of dissenting voices" in the runup to these elections.
Mauritania’s ruling party swept legislative, municipal and local elections, according to final results announced 24 September 2018, in a key test before a presidential poll seven months away. The Union for the Republic (UPR) party of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz won an additional 22 seats in the 22 September 2018 runoff vote, bringing its majority to 89 in the 157-seat parliament. It won all 13 regional councils, which have replaced the Senate under a constitutional reform, the national election commission said. The UPR also bagged 162 of the 219 communes in play. The so-called “radical” opposition won 29 parliamentary seats, of which 14 were for the Islamist Tewassoul party. Ten others went to “moderate” opposition parties.
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