Category Archives: Mauritania

Mauritania – Constitutional amendments

I am usually pretty good at spotting constitutional amendments in semi-presidential countries. However, this one completely passed me by.

There was a constitutional law in Mauritania in March 2012. The text of the law is available in French here.

The reforms are quite disparate. However, one affects executive/legislative relations. The new version of Art. 42 states that a new government has to present its programme to the National Assembly within a month. There is then a vote on the programme and if it is rejected then the government has to resign.

The other reforms are significant in a Mauritanian context, notably the recognition of the multi-ethnic nature of the country.

One other reform is worth noting. There is now a clause that forbids coups. Now, I may be cynical, but I am somewhat sceptical that future coup plotters will be dissuaded from acting on their plans because the constitution forbids them from doing so. (And I’ll refrain from mentioning the fact that President Abdel Aziz came to power by virtue of a coup. Oops).

Mauritania – Senate election

On Sunday there were elections for a partial renewal of the Senate in Mauritania. There is a report in Jeune Afrique.

The Senate comprises 56 seats and 17 were up for renewal. Prior to the renewal, the Union pour la République (UPR), the party of the incumbent president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, held 35 seats, while e-mauritanie.net reports that only 11 Senators were in the opposition.

Senators are elected indirectly in single-member constituencies by councillors. They serve for six years and one-third of the Senate is renewed every two years.

On Sunday, the UPR won 12 of the 17 seats. In one seat in the capital, Nouakchott, the moderate (and supposedly opposition) islamist party, Tewassoul, won a seat, though it was in alliance with the UPR. In two seats, independents were returned ahead of the UPR. In one consitutency there will be a second ballot between the UPR and an opposition FNDD/RFD list, though the UPR is expected to win. The seat for diaspora Mauritanians will be contested later. There is a newspaper report in French from Nouakchott Info here.

The opposition complained prior to the election that the process was not fair and accused the government of buying the votes of local councillors.

Mauritania – Presidential election

In Mauritania, the presidential election was held on Saturday.

L’Agence Nouakchott d’Information has announced the following results:

Registered voters: 1,265,589
Voting: 817,260
Null: 34,911
Blank: 4,244
Votes cast: 778,105
Voting: 64.58%
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz: 409,100, 52.58%
Messaoud Ould Boulkheir: 126,782, 16.29%
Ahmed Ould Mohameden Ould Daddah: 106,263, 13.66%
Mohamed Jemil Ould Brahim Ould Mansour: 37,059, 4.76% (moderate Islamist candidate)
Ibrahima Moctar Sarr: 35,709, 4.59% (black Mauritanian candidate, supported the coup)
Ely Mohamed Vall Eleya: 29,681, 3.81%
Kane Hamidou Baba: 11,568, 1.49%
Saleh Ould Mohamedou Ould Hanena: 10,219, 1.31%
Sghair Ould MBareck: 1,788, 0.23%
Hamady Abdallahi Meimou: 8,936, 1.28%

So, the leader of last August’s coup has been elected president at the first ballot. Perhaps unsurprisingly, various opposition candidates have cried foul. Specifically, jeuneafrique reports that Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, Ahmed Ould Daddah, Ely Ould Mohamed Vall (junta leader from 2005-2007, but overseer of the return to democracy and anti-coup candidate) and Hamadi Ould Meimou have collectively denounced the result as an “electoral coup”. Given the election was based on an agreement with the opposition that resulted in a power-sharing arrangement, it will be interesting to see whether the agreement survives.

Mauritania – Deposed president is ‘undeposed’ and then resigns

In Mauritania, the situation is moving forward in a seemingly positive fashion.

On Friday President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who was deposed in the coup last August and who was, in effect, ‘undeposed’ as a function of the peace agreement earlier this month, named a government of transition. (See previous post). This was consistent with the agreement. Then, on Saturday, he resigned as president. Again, this was part of the peace agreement.

Presidential elections are set for 18 July and the interim president, in conformity with the constitution, is Bâ Mamadou, known as ‘Mbaré’, who is the president of the Senate. The anti-putsch opposition has confirmed that it will participate in the election.

The prime minister of the transition government is the same as the prime minister who was appointed by the junta last August, Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdhaf. (See previous post).

I am still unclear as to whether the Constitution has been officially restored, but certainly Mauritania is well on the way to returning to semi-presidentialism even if it has not yet formally done so.

Mauritania – Election delayed, agreement reached

In Mauritania, the military junta and representatives of the opposition appear to have reached an agreement that will create a transitional regime. The text of the agreement in French is available here. It was due to be signed on Wednesday, but this was put off until Thursday.

A crucial part of the agreement is that the presidential election, which was scheduled for this weekend, will now be delayed until 18 July with a second ballot scheduled, if need be, for 1 August.

Another key element is the establishment of a Transitional Government of National Union, which is due to take effect on 6 June. It will be a power-sharing government with the supporters of the leader of the junta, M. Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, securing 50% of the posts and representatives of the two main opposition groups, the National Front for the Defence of Democracy (FNDD) and the Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD) securing the other 50% between them. The prime minister will come from M. Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz’s group, while the Ministers of Interior, Finance, and Communication will come from the opposition. The agreement also states that M. Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz will not act as president during the interim, but that this position will be assumed by the President of the Senate.

An Independent National Electoral Commission will also be constituted with representation from the three groups.

There is some talk of a national dialogue that will address certain issues that relate to the constitution. However, there is no mention of a new constitution being drafted. Indeed, the agreement talks about restoring the constitutional order and about matters being conducted within the realm of the constitution and existing laws. In other words, it looks even more likely that Mauritania will return to semi-presidentialism very soon.

Mauritania – Semi-presidentialism likely to be restored

In Mauritania, the military junta organised the so-called Etat-généraux de la démocratie from 27 December – 6 January. Many people attended, but the meeting was opened by the head of military regime, General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, who set the tone of the proceedings. There were some interesting constitutional debates, but the meeting was boycotted by the opposition, the Front national pour la défense de la démocratie, mainly comprising the supporters of the former president, Sidi Ould Cheick Abdallahi, who was ousted last August.

A link to the report of the meeting is available at the Constitution en Afrique website. There are few specifics. However, the prime minister has announced that a presidential election will be held on 30 May, with a second round, if required, on 13 June. The prime minister also announced that there will be no restrictions on who will be able stand as a candidate. There is very strong speculation that General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz will stand for president, perhaps after resigning his military position beforehand.

What seems clear is that the 2005 constitution will be restored, though probably following certain modifications probably relating to the eligibility of candidates for the presidency, the role of the army, and perhaps the conditions under which the president can be removed from office. While, as I understand it, the 2005 constitution has not yet been reinstated, presumably it will be in time for the elections in May.

Mauritania – Constitutional debate

Partly as a result of the international pressure that is being placed on the military junta in Mauritania, the debate about the country’s redemocratisation process is taking shape. As part of that debate, the elements of a new constitutional arrangement are starting to be discussed.

Specifically, the themes to be discussed by the so-called état-généraux de la démocratie have been revealed. They are as follows (excuse the French):

• Attributions du Président de la République ;
• Attribution du Parlement ;
• Rapports entre les pouvoirs exécutif et législatif ;
• Moyens d’influence réciproques entre les pouvoirs ;
• Organe d’arbitrage entre les institutions ;
• Modalités d’organisation du pouvoir exécutif ;
• Place des Forces Armées et de Sécurité dans le dispositif politique et institutionnel ;
• Eligibilité.

It does not require a masterful grasp of French, especially when combined with a little contemporary context, to realise that the role of the president is likely to be at the heart of the constitutional debate.

In August the coup was provoked by the military’s reaction to the president’s powers, particularly the president’s powers of appointment to the military and his threat to dissolve parliament. In this context, the place of the military in the new constitutional arrangement is one of the themes to be discussed. Also, according to at least one source, a reduction of the president’s power, including dissolution power, will be at the heart of any reforms. This source also speculates that, as before, the changes will be made to the 1991 constitution. A totally new constitution will not be written.

Crucially, from a semi-presidential perspective, there is speculation from the same source that the president may no longer be directly elected. If the president is to be a fairly weak figure, then, so the argument goes, the junta will argue that there is no need for direct election. (I’m sure that people in Austria, Ireland etc may disagree, but that is irrelevant). This would suit the junta, who, presumably, would be reluctant to sanction a redemocratisation process if it would result in a return to the status quo ante i.e. the situation before the coup. By contrast, if the president were to be elected by parliament, then they could be assured both of a weak president and of a president largely of their choice, given parliament’s inclination to support the military regime.

In other news, former President, Sidi Ould Chjeikh Abdellahi, who was deposed in the August coup, was placed in semi-liberty at the end of last week.

Mauritania – Parliament reconvenes

On Monday, parliament in Mauritania held its first session since the coup in August. It was interesting because there was clear opposition to the ruling military regime. An opposition movement has been formed – the Front national pour la défense de la démocratie (FNDD). In the National Assembly, the opponents of the coup, including the president of the lower house, decided to boycott parliament. In the Senate, a number of the opponents decided to attend and, according to jeune afrique, the president of the Senate is said to have opened proceedings with some harsh words against the regime, although this is contested. For example, one text of his speech indicates no such criticism. In general, whereas the president of the National Assembly has been critical of the coup since it happened, the president of the Senate has been silent.

Of course, since the coup, Mauritania no longer has a semi-presidential constitution. The text of the constitutional decree establishing the High Council of State (military government) is available here. However, I will keep posting in anticipation of a return to democracy and, perhaps, semi-presidentialism at some stage in, hopefully, the near future. In the decree, there is the distinct impression that when democracy is restored it will be on the basis of a semi-presidential constitution once again. The military government is formally organising what it calls the Etats généraux de la démocratie, which may act as a sort of round-table talks prior to the restoration of democracy.

There is considerable international pressure on Mauritania to restart the democratic process and, notably, to free former President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who is still under arrest.

Mauritania – SP suspended

As you all know by now, there was a coup in Mauritania on 6 August. The coup was sparked by the president’s sacking of senior military figures. The former president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, and the prime minister were arrested. The PM has now been released, but the president is still under guard.

AP reports that 107/146 deputies and senators have signed a declaration of support for the recent coup. The remaining parliamentarians tend to be from leftist and Islamic parties, which were the ones mainly represented in the former government. The coup leaders have justified their actions by stating that President Abdallahi was being soft on Islamic terrorism. Al Qaeda has issued a statement of jihad against the new leaders.

The country is now being run by the so-called Haut Conseil d’Etat (HCE), an 11-person military junta. The new leader is General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz. Afrique en ligne reports that they have promised a new presidential election “as soon as possible”.

According to Afrol, the HCE issued an 11-article law that gives General Abdel Aziz the right to appoint a new prime minister. On 14 August Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdhaf, a diplomat formerly stationed in Brussels, was appointed as the new prime minister.

While I have not seen the new law, this strongly suggests that the HCE has formally suspended the constitution. In turn, and it would be the least of any Mauritanian worries but…, this also means that Mauritania is no longer semi-presidential.

Mauritania – New government

Last week I posted about the governmental crisis in Mauritania. The prime minister, Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghev resigned prior to a motion of no-confidence. The motion was tabled by the prime minister’s own PNDD-ADIL party. Deputies were unhappy with the presence in the government, which only came to office in May, of members of the former opposition and associates of the former president, Maaouya Ould Taya, who was deposed in a peaceful coup in 2005.

Following Prime Minister Ould Ahmed El Waghev’s resignation, President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi immediately reappointed Ould El Waghev to his post.

Now, Jeuneafrique reports that a new government has been formed that excludes representatives of the former opposition. In effect, two parties that were included in the May government have been excluded. They are the Union des forces du progrès (UFP) and the Islamist party, Jemil Ould Mansour. In addition, four ministers who were considered to be supporters of former president Ould Taya have also been left out.