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Local Government History

Mauritania inherited a centralized French system of local government at independence in 1961 but then underwent extensive administrative reform in 1968. The twelve new prefectures roughly corresponded to earlier administrative units but they included elected regional councils. Under military rule after 1978, there were no further local elections until 1986, when elections were conducted in Mauritania’s thirteen largest urban districts. Subsequently elections were conducted in other municipalities, and the prefectures were renamed provinces (wilaya-s).

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Administrative Divisions

There are twelve provinces and the autonomous district of Nouakchott, the capital city. The provinces are in turn divided into 49 departments and 219 elected municipal councils.

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Local Government Budgetary Reform

The transitional government has adopted elements of the 2004 National Program of Good Governance, including decentralization.

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Reform: Fiscal Decentralization

The World Bank included decentralization as one aspect of a $13 million Capacity Building Program launched in 2007 that continues earlier programs of capacity building.

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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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