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Mauritania - 2019 Election - President

Mauritania’s history has been marred by repeated military coups, beginning with the first post-independence president, Mokhtar Ould Daddah. The most recent military coup took place in 2008, putting Ould Abdel Aziz at the helm of the country.

Voters reelected President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to a second and final five-year term in 2014. In 2013 Union for the Republic (UPR), the president’s party, won 76 of 147 seats in the National Assembly in direct legislative elections, which some opposition parties boycotted.

Police have arrested a number of human right activists and journalists without charge or hearings. For example, on 25 August 2018, al-Akhbar, a news website, reported that authorities arrested and subsequently released four journalists (president of the Mauritanian Press Association Mousa Samba Sy, editor of the Mauri website Jedna Ould Deida, Baboubkar Ndiaye from the Cridem website, and the editor of Calame newspaper Ahmed Ould Cheikh). Following a defamation suit filed by the president’s son, authorities accused them of receiving a bribe from an overseas opponent of the government. On 10 August 2017, authorities arrested opposition Senator Mohamed Ould Ghadda, who was the head of the anticorruption committee in the now-dissolved senate. He took part in antireferendum rallies that protested amendments to the constitution. Authorities accused him of accepting a bribe from an overseas opponent of the government.

Parliamentary, local, and regional elections were held on 01 September 2018, and on 08 September 2018, the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) announced the results. The ruling Union for the Republic (UPR) party won majority of seats in parliament, filling 67 out of the 157 seats, followed by the opposition Islamist Party with 14 seats. However, no party obtained an absolute majority, so a run-off was held on 15 September 2018 between the parties that received the largest number of votes in the first round.

The Mauritanian President said extremists were participating in the parliamentary and municipal elections. He said he was supporting Al-Ittihad Party for the sake of the republic in order to put a limit to the falsehoods circulated in rumors and stand in the face of the wave of “dangerous extremist” parties taking part in these elections. These extremist parties have agendas that contradict the Mauritanian people’s customs and traditions. He added that these parties’ agendas have led to the destruction of some Arab countries known to all.

Ould Abdel Aziz said he would not allow extremists and corrupt people to enter the National Assembly (Parliament). He added that there was an unlicensed movement that is hiding behind one of the licensed parties in an unclear operation that calls for disintegration of the society and it is sowing the seeds of sedition between the members and segments of the society.

The vote was the last test for President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz's record before next year's presidential election. The opposition boycotted the last polls in 2013, but a record 98 parties are taking part this time, with close to 5,000 people running for the National Assembly alone.

These elections are indeed a test less than a year of the presidential election, expected in mid-2019. "If the presidential majority gets more than two-thirds of the seats, then it can if it wishes to amend the Constitution, which would open the way to a possible third term of office of the president. Mauritanian opposition, which does not believe in the promises of the president that he will leave after his second mandate", specifies Sarah Sakho.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, 61, came to power in a coup in 2008. He was elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2014 for a second five-year term. Although the Mauritanian president has repeatedly stated he will not seek a third mandate, which is against the constitution, the opposition is not convinced by his promises and statements by his ministers and supporters have added to their suspicions.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz made a stopover in North Korea on 08 May 2018, to stand alongside the leaders of this country who were celebrating the 70th anniversary. of their independence. Without complex, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was the only one of the heads of state of the whole world to answer present to the Koreans who had sent yet innumerable invitations for their national holiday. Banished from the nations, the Korean president is not deemed popular by most countries on the planet. Apparently, Mauritania is an exception, as is the sacred monster of French cinema, Gérard Depardieu, who also participated in the festivities.

However, Aziz was not received by his counterpart and "friend" Kim Jong-un, but just by a certain Kim Yong Nam, a member of the party's permanent central committee. According to information from Mondafrique, it seems that the Mauritanian head of state wanted, during this surprising stop, to discuss the purchase of weapons. He was ready to offer them, in return, gold, which Mauritania produces in large quantities. The Mauritanian president has also been able to ask his dear Korean friends some advice on "hacking" computer systems. Finally, it seems that the exchanges have also focused on money laundering circuits, a subject that Koreans, under embargo for a long time, know well.

Abdel Aziz had raised the possibility that he could be convinced to seek a third term if there were calls for him to run again from within the ruling party and the public at large. Some party leaders said they want him to serve for longer, and during the African Union summit held in June 2018 in Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital, there were signs all over town calling for Abdel Aziz to seek re-election. Such a show of support would not be possible without his knowledge and approval.

On 25 August 2018, the National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU), Mauritania’s main opposition coalition, accused Ould Abdel Aziz of seeking a third term as president. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on 30 August 2018 dismissed accusations of seeking to amend the country’s constitution to allow him to run for a third term in office. “I have spoken a lot about the third-term issue,” Ould Abdel Aziz told reporters in Nouakchott, adding: “I will not change the constitution to allow a third term; I have said this on more than one occasion.” He went on to stress his “personal conviction” that “changing constitutions for the sake of a single individual is unseemly”.

Mauritania’s Constitutional Council on 09 May 2019 released a provisional list of six candidates for the 22 June 2019 presidential election. The list included candidate of the ruling party Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mohamed Ahmed (Ould El Ghazouani), candidate of the National Rally for Reform and Development Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar, rights activist Biram Dah Abeid, the opposition coalition candidate Mohamed Ould Mouloud, Kane Hamidou Baba, and Mohamed Lemine al-Mourtaji al-Wafi.

Six presidential hopefuls in Mauritania ended their campaigns on 20 June 2019 with hourslong rallies throughout the capital of Nouakchott. Many voters, particularly young voters, have expressed doubts over the transparency of the election.

For the first time since a 2008 coup, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz will not be up for re-election, leaving the polls wide open and voters newly energized for change. Aziz’s ruling party has named its former defense minister, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, the party’s successor. Ghazouani promised to transform national industries to create more jobs around the country’s natural resources. He also promised that he would regularly meet with members of opposition parties represented in parliament if elected president. Ghazouani’s resources are notably more than other candidates, given his backing by the current government. Posters and billboards bearing Ghazouani’s face are more numerous than those of any other candidate and can be seen throughout the capital city. The state’s administration are at the service of the candidate presented by the ruling party.

Among the opposition candidates are Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar of Tawassoul, the country’s main opposition party. Boubacar previously served the country as prime minister from 2005 to 2007. Though he is more established in politics than the other opposition candidates, Boubacar is running on the platform of change, and has said that electing the ruling party’s candidate would not affect necessary change in the country.

Another notable opposition candidate was Biram Dah Abeid, an independent politician running on an anti-slavery problem. Mauritania has consistently ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for modern slavery, a problem that Abeid has combatted in his work outside of politics. Abeid has gained popularity among poorer and rural communities, and he says it’s because despite his international travels, he has always been committed to the betterment of Mauritania.

Among the issues facing Mauritania is unemployment. Almost 60% of the population is under the age of 25 leaving a majority of the population concerned about their education and future job opportunities.

Opposition candidates in Mauritania's presidential election on 23 June 2019 cried foul after government candidate Mohamed Cheikh El-Ghazouani claimed victory before full results were in. The electoral commission issued results showing that Ghazouani won an absolute majority in the first round with counting completed in 3,729 of a total of 3,861 polling stations.According to data published on the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) website, the 62-year-old former head of the domestic security service won 51.5 percent of the vote. If the result is confirmed, Ghazouani will have won outright, with no need to contest a second-round runoff. Abeid came second with 18.58 percent of the votes and Boubacar followed in third place with 17.82 percent, the CENI data showed.

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