Thursday, 19 June 2014
Upcoming Mauritania presidential elections
Mauritanians go to the polls on 21 June to elect a new President. The incumbent, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, launched his re-election campaign on 6 June in the southern city of Kaedi, telling supporters that since he came to power the country had made ‘great strides’ in security and economic growth.
Abdel Aziz has the strong support of the West, notably the United States, France, and the UK, for his tough stance against terrorism. Also, at face value his economic claims are hard to dispute. Mauritania managed economic growth of 6 per cent last year, with the president claiming credit for the burgeoning mining sector and a drop in inflation to less than 5 per cent.
He has also brought a degree of stability and continuity, thereby reassuring international companies that have invested in the country.
Poverty is still widespread, however, and unless the country strikes oil and/or gas in good quantities fairly soon, its economic future is in the balance.
The more radical opposition parties have formed themselves into a new alliance called the National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU). They comprise the Islamist Tawassoul movement and the 10 opposition parties forming the Coordination for a Democratic Opposition (COD), which boycotted last November’s election.
The FNDU is boycotting the upcoming election because its members claim that the process lacks credibility and transparency. Other opposition parties, notably the Popular Progressive Alliance (APP), are also boycotting the election for the same reason.
The opposition parties have widely criticised Abdel Aziz for his authoritarian rule. Thousands of FNDU supporters demonstrated throughout Nouakchott on 3 June, protesting at his autocratic approach and at the way the elections have been organised.
His opponents claim, with good reason, that democracy has taken a backseat during his tenure. They accuse the president of using the government and state institutions as his own personal electoral apparatus. This month, six ministers went on vacation, reportedly ordered to do so in order to spend time helping to manage the president’s electoral campaign. Among them were the minister of justice and the government’s official spokesperson.
Abdel Aziz’s response to the election boycott has been a defiant call for a 100 per cent turnout. The opposition, in turn, has vowed to ramp up its protests.
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