Mauritanian opposition to protest after election loss - GulfToday

Mauritanian opposition to protest after election loss

Mauritania-election

People celebrate the presidential election victory by Mauritania’s ruling party candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani in Nouakchott on Sunday. Agence France-Presse

Mauritania’s opposition parties called for peaceful protests as they vowed to appeal on Monday against the outcome of presidential elections that saw a former general, an ally of the outgoing head of state, win in the first round of voting.

“We are going to organise protest demonstrations, it’s our constitutional right,” Mohamed Ould Moloud who joined three other losing candidates, told a press conference late Sunday.

Supporters are being asked to join the four on Monday afternoon as they march to the country’s election board, CENI, in the capital Nouakchott.

There, they will “register their protest and rejection of the results,” said another candidate, journalist Baba Hamidou Kane.

The ruling party’s candidate, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, won the presidency outright with 52 per cent of the vote, the electoral commission announced Sunday.

Ghazouani easily beat main opposition opponents Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, an anti-slavery activist credited with 18.58 per cent of the vote, followed by Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar, with 17.87 per cent, according to the official figures from Saturday’s polls. The vote had been billed as an historic first for the conservative Saharan desert nation, marking the first democratic transition in its coup-strewn history.

Former prime minister Boubacar, addressing a news conference along with three other candidates, charged that “multiple irregularities... eliminated any credibility” in the election, which was to be the first democratic transfer of power in the West African desert nation.

“We reject the results of the election and we consider that they in no way express the will of the Mauritanian people,” he said, vowing the opposition would use “every legal means” to challenge them.

The CENI electoral commission said voter turnout was 62.66 per cent.

With a clear majority, the 62-year-old Ghazouani, former head of the domestic security service, has won outright with no need for a second-round runoff election.

Ghazouani had already declared himself the winner in the early hours of Sunday in the presence of outgoing president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, his supporters and journalists.

Second-placed Abeid, an anti-slavery activist, told the opposition news conference: “We are launching an appeal to the Mauritanian people... to resist, within the bounds of the law, this umpteenth coup d’etat against the will of the people.”

Incidents broke out between protesters and police following Ghazouani’s declaration in the capital and in northwest Nouadhibou, the only province where he did not come in first.

The opposition said they were planning protests from Monday afternoon.

“We will organise protests, this is our constitutional right,” Mohamed Ould Moloud, who got 2.44 per cent of the vote, told the news conference late Sunday, stressing they would be peaceful.

Baba Hamidou Kane, who polled 8.71 per cent, said the four opposition candidates would lodge an official protest with the electoral commission on Monday.

Although the vote is the first in Mauritania’s coup-strewn history that looks set to see an elected president complete his mandate and transfer power to an elected successor, the opposition has raised concerns that the vote could perpetuate a government dominated by military figures.

Some 1.5 million people were eligible to vote in the vast predominantly Muslim state, which is approximately twice the size of former colonial power France but has a population of just 4.5 million.

CENI advised all candidates “to show prudence and restraint”, and hoped the calm during the campaign and on voting day would prevail.

Both Abeid and Boubacar had complained of balloting irregularities and the expulsion of representatives from some polling stations. However CENI said no major problems had been reported.

Ghazouani — who campaigned on the themes of continuity, solidarity and security — served as Abdel Aziz’s chief of staff from 2008 to last year.

The outgoing president is a general who originally came to power in a 2008 coup. He won elections a year later and was again elected in 2014 in polls boycotted by the opposition.

Agencies