Mauritania: return to democracy on hold

A power-sharing deal between Mauritania’s military junta and opposition is being delayed by disagreement over the composition of an interim government. Under the deal, signed June 5 after lengthy talks involving international mediators in Senegal, the transitional Government of National Unity was to ave taken effect on the 13th—with the civilian president toppled in last August’s military coup as its head. But Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi must first formally resign as president, and he wants to do so in the office he was driven from by Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Aziz objects to President Abdallahi returning to the presidency to step down—especially as Abdallahi’s spokesman says the president intends to announce that doing so shows that the Aziz coup has failed. Aziz is to nominate the transitional government’s prime minister, but his opponents are objecting to the return of current prime minister Moulay Ould Mohamed Laghaf because he was part of the ruling military council’s government.

So far there has been no opposition to the coalition of parties that is backing Abdallahi nominating the same interior minister who was toppled in the coup. It is a key post that will supervise the July vote for a formal government.

The ministers of Finance, Defense, and Information go to a rival opposition party, the Assembly of Democratic Forces, whose Ahmed Ould Dadah is now a presidential candidate. Joining Aziz and Daddah in the presidential campaign is former military ruler Ely Ould Mohamed Vall—who has criticized Aziz for toppling Abdallahi’s civilian government that came to power in elections Vall helped organize. Supporters of former long-ruling dictator Moauiya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya are calling for his return from exile in Doha so he can stand as a candidate as well. The African Union says the July 18 vote should not be delayed. The European Union says it will support the transitional government by gradually resuming development aid. (VOA, June 12)

Mauritania’s only Islamist party has also named its leader, Mohamed Jemil Ould Mansour, as its candidate for the presidential race. The National Rally for Reform and Development (RNRD) decided to name a candidate instead of backing a single candidate under the Anti-coup Front. Jemil Ould Mansour, a 45-year-old lawmaker, becomes the first Islamist candidate since his party was legalized in 2007. A former leader of the outlawed Islamic Student Organization, he was imprisoned several times under the 1984-2005 regime of Maaouiya Ould Taya.

The presidential election was originally set for June 6, but the government agreed to hold it on July 18 instead after reaching a deal with the opposition, which had threatened to boycott the vote. Aziz, the general who led the coup, stepped down as junta chief in April to run for president. (AFP, June 15)

See our last posts on Mauritania and the Sahel.

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