Mauritania: First round of presidential elections on June 29, 2024

Mauritanian flags. Screenshot of the Africa24 YouTube channel

In the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, seven candidates, including the country’s current president, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, will face each other in the first round of presidential elections on June 29, 2024. Ghazouani has been in power since August 2019.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced the election date. Voters had until May 29, 2024, to register on the electoral roll.

Out of a population of over 4 million, the number of voters at the 2019 presidential elections, which led to Mohamed Ould Ghazouani’s first five-year term election, was estimated at over 1.5 million. In 2024, with an estimated population of 4.9 million, the number of voters will ultimately be greater. Around 2 million voters are expected to vote to elect their next president. Having reached the end of his first term, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani is eligible for reelection, according to the country’s constitution.

In the constitution, there are two prerequisites to become a candidate: you must be of Islamic faith and be at least 40 years of age. Mauritania is a heavily Islamized country; almost 99 percent of the population is Muslim.

Mohamed Ould Ghazouani to face six candidates

As expected, on April 24, 2024, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani announced his candidacy for a second term as leader. His announcement was made public in a letter to the media. French newspaper Le Monde quoted this letter in an article on his announcement:

J’ai jugé opportun de m’adresser directement à vous, chers compatriotes, à travers cette lettre, pour vous informer de ma décision de me présenter à vous, afin que vous me renouveliez votre confiance pour un nouveau mandat.

I considered it appropriate to speak to my dear fellow citizens directly through this letter to inform you of my decision to run for you and for you to show your trust in me with another term.

The incumbent president used this letter to announce his commitments for his second term. According to Le Monde, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani promised to strengthen national unity, improve the living conditions of the most deprived, safeguard security and stability, and combat corruption and the misappropriation of public funds.

Pour moi, le premier défi a toujours été et demeure celui de répondre aux aspirations et aux espoirs de notre jeunesse, de libérer son énergie et de la préparer à contribuer activement à la construction et à la définition des contours de la Mauritanie à laquelle elle aspire.

In my view, the primary challenge is and always has been meeting the hopes and aspirations of our young people, thus unleashing their energy and equipping them to actively contribute to building and shaping the Mauritania they seek.

Now a candidate for his own succession, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani will face six opposition candidates in the first round of these elections.

The leading opposition candidates include Hamadi Ould Sid’ El Moctar, leader of the Islamist opposition party Tawassoul; Elid Mohameden Mbareck, lawyer and congressman active in combating racial discrimination; and Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, congressman and anti-slavery and human rights activist who came second in the 2019 presidential elections.

In Mauritania, slavery remains a sensitive topic. Despite being abolished three times already, the problem persists in this country today, affecting around 10 percent of the population. Although this practice is now considered a serious crime, with the last anti-slavery law passed in 2015, anti-slavery activists are still the object of repression.

Read this Afrique XXI  article: Mauritania’s racial segregation time bomb

Because of his commitment to human rights, Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid’s candidacy is very popular with some of the population who support him. On X (formerly Twitter), Mauritanian citizen Bakary Tandia wrote:

As an anti-establishment opposition candidate in the 2024 presidential elections, Biram is the only hope for those repressed in Mauritania, as shown in these images.#Biram2024
— Bakary Tandia (@bektange) April 26, 2024

The candidacy of former president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, another potential heavyweight candidate who could have been a thorn in the current president’s side and hindered his reelection, was rejected. As he has already served two terms as president (2009–2019), the country’s constitution doesn’t allow him to stand again. Moreover, in 2023, he was arrested and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for illicit enrichment.

The electoral campaign began at midnight on June 14, 2024, and will end at midnight on Thursday, June 27, 2024, two days before the election. Candidates will, therefore, have two weeks to conduct their campaigns and expand their agenda.

Sahelian country free of security crises

Military coups d’état from 1978 to 1984 and 2008 have marked Mauritania’s history. However, the crisis has since abated, thus enabling democratic succession and compliance with presidential term limits.

What’s more, although Mauritania borders Mali, which has suffered the full brunt of jihadist attacks for over a decade now, this country has been free of extremist and terrorist attacks since 2011.

Read: The Sahel faces a resurgence of terrorist attacks

The country’s stable security situation is partly due to President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, who had a long career in the army and security services before his presidency. Having fought terrorism for many years, he perfectly understands the security system in Africa’s Sahel region.

Aside from slavery, the biggest challenge in the June 29 election will be the country’s ability to address or significantly reduce corruption. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Mauritania ranks 130 out of 180, scoring 30 out of 100. This rank is the same as in 2022.

On the other hand, according to an analysis by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, this country offers investors a wide range of business opportunities. These investors come from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, especially the United Arab Emirates. They aim to make the country an energy hub for green hydrogen production.

Green hydrogen would be the solution to a carbon-free energy transition and an alternative to fossil fuels. It is derived from water electrolysis using renewable energy sources, like wind and solar power.

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