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POGAR > Countries > Country Theme: Elections: Mauritania
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Following a commitment by the Military Council to restore civilian rule, legislative and municipal elections took place on November 19, 2006, with a second round on December 3, 2006. As a proof of its impartiality in these elections, the Military Council issued legal order No. 5/2005 dated September 25, 2005 forbidding the candidacy of the council's president and members, the prime minister and cabinet members in any public elections. Presidential elections on March 11 and March 25 concluded the process of democratic transition in Mauritania.

In August 2008, Mauritania witnessed a military coup against the President, Sidi Mohamed Ould Al sheikh Abdullah. The leaders of the military coup issued a decree stipulating the transfer of the President’s authorities to the leader of the coup, General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Presidential elections were held on 18 July 2009 and resulted in a victory for General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz who won the elections in the first round.

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Election Laws, Systems and Processes

Election law allows Mauritanian citizens 18 years old or over to vote in public elections. The number of registered voters slightly exceeded one million men and women. A unified voting ballot with serial numbers was printed, as means of preventing fraud, and 2236 voting centers were opened. An upper limit was set for expenditure by candidates on their election campaigns. The state provided an exceptional financial assistance to political parties to help them meet their election expenses. The government also gave political parties sufficient access to public media. The election law stipulates a guaranteed quota of 20% for women representation in the national assembly and municipal councils. A circular issued by the prime minister on October 27, 2006 prohibited the use of state organs and means for electoral propaganda.

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Election Authorities

The Military Council also issued a legal order establishing "The Independent National Elections Committee" as an independent administrative body responsible for conducting orderly and transparent elections. That legal order provided the committee with the powers and means needed to accomplish its mission.

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Presidential Elections

The latest presidential elections in Mauritania were held on 18 July 2009 in fulfillment of the Dakar Agreement reached between various Mauritanian political parties agreeing to conduct pluralist, free, fair and transparent presidential elections. The elections aimed to end the political crisis resulting from the military coup which toppled the first democratically elected President in Mauritania, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdullah; President Abdullah did not run for elections in 2009. 10 candidates competed in the elections which were monitored by more than 320 international observers from numerous organizations, including: the United Nations, the Arab League, the International Organization of French Speaking Countries and Governments, the Congress of the Coast and Sahara Countries, the Union of the Arab Maghreb, in addition to France and Spain.

The number of registered voters was 1,265,589, out of whom 817,260 did vote thereby putting the participation rate at 64.58%. General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, leader of the 6 August 2008 military coup, won the elections in the first round with a wide margin compared to his contesters, as he received 52.58% of the vote. Massoud Ould Belkhair occupied the second position by receiving 16.29% of the vote, and Ahmed Ould Mohamed Ould Daddah came third with 13.66% of the vote. Of the remaining 7 candidates, Mohammed Jamil Mansour received 4.76% of the vote, followed by Ibrahim Mukhtar Sarr with 4.59%, Ali Mohammed Vall Ali received 3.81%, Hamed Baba with 1.49%, Saleh Mohamed Ould Hanan with 1.31%, and Hammadi Ould Amimo with 1.28% of the vote. Finally, Assghir Ould Mubarak, who withdrew from the elections, obtained 0.23% of the vote.

Previous presidential elections took place on March 11, 2007, following a two-week electoral campaign. There were 19 candidates, eleven of whom 11 were independent candidates and 8 were leaders of political parties. However, only three of them had any real chance to win the elections. They were: Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi (69 years old), who had served several times as a cabinet minister in the previous political regime; Ahmad Ould Daddah (65 years old), a historical opposition figure, who had lost two presidential elections in 1992 and 2003 and who is leader of the "Democratic Rally Forces" that controls the largest bloc in the current Mauritanian National Assembly (15 deputies); and Zayden Ould Zaidan (41 years old), an economist and former governor of Mauritania's Central Bank.

1.1 million voters were registered in 2400 electoral centers spread all over the country. The participation rate in the first round was 70%. Since none of the candidates received 50% of the cast votes, a second round between the two candidates who had received the greatest number, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi (25% of the vote) and Ahmad Ould Daddah (21%), took place on March 25, 2007. The participation rate in the second round was 68.47%. Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, supported by candidates who came third and fourth in the first round, received 52.85% of votes and won in 11 out of 13 administrative districts, while his rival took 60% of the vote in the capital, Nouakchott, and also won in his home district of Trarza (South West of Mauritania).

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Legislative Elections

The latest legislative and municipal elections in Mauritania took place on November 19, 2006 with a second round on December 3, 2006. The legislative elections concerned electing members of the National Assembly (the lower chamber of the parliament). Elections in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou were conducted according to proportional representation, and in all other provinces according to party lists. Twenty-eight political parties contested the 95 National Assembly seats. Major political blocs were: The Alliance of Forces for Democratic Change" composed of 8 political parties that represent the previous opposition; the Moderate Reformers Group" (Moderate Islamists); The Independent Candidates Group (ex-members in the previously ruling party"; The Republican Party for Democracy and Renovation (the previously ruling party); and The Progressive Popular Alliance ( a party composed of ex-slaves movements). In the first round 43 deputies, including 9 women, were elected. The alliance of former opposition parties won 26 seats. Participation rate in the first round was 73% and in the second round 40%. Overall election results gave the Alliance of Forces for Democratic Change 41 seats in the National Assembly, while independent candidates won 39 seats. The former ruling Republican Party won 7 seats and parties loyal to the former regime won 8 seats. Overall participation rate was 60%.

Elections of members of the Upper House (Senate) took place on January 21, 2007 with a second round on February 4, 2007. The Senate is composed of 53 members who are elected by the 3688 members of the 216 municipal councils. In the first round 170 electoral lists contested the elections; 118 lists were for independent candidates, 37 lists for political parties and 15 lists a combination of both groups. Only 37 senate members were elected in the first round. The remaining 15 members were elected in the second round. The ministry of interior announced final results: independents who support the "Charter Alliance" that formed the majority under the former political regime won 37 senate seats while the alliance of "Forces of Democratic Change" (the former opposition) won 15 seats.

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Local Elections

Municipal elections coincided with legislative elections on November 19, 2006 with a second round on December 3, 2006. A total of 1200 electoral lists contested the 219 municipal councils. These elections were contested by 25 political parties who fielded 888 lists, while independents fielded 312 lists. Total number of candidates was 20,667, including 3954 women. In the first round 3688 municipal council members were elected of whom 1120 were women. Thus women's share of municipal seats exceeded their pre-determined quota of 20% and climbed up to 30.33%.

Legislative and municipal elections were monitored by 200 foreign and 300 national observers. Teams of observers from the United Nations, European Union, Arab League, African Union, Islamic Conference Organization, and the International Francophone Organization oversaw the election process. Those observers confirmed that the elections were fair and proceeded in an orderly fashion and calm atmosphere. International observers also commended the presidential elections for being free and fair. No violent incidents were recorded. These elections were observed by 300 observers from international organizations, including the European Union.

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National Referenda

A national referendum was held in Mauritania on 25 June 2006 to approve several amendments to the 1991 constitution. The referendum was held as part of a transition from the country's present military government to a civilian one. Turnout at the referendum was around 76%, and according to official results 96.6% of voters approved the new constitution which, among other provisions, limited the President's mandate to two five year terms rather than six years, and established a maximum age limit of 75 years for presidential candidates.

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