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Politics of Mauritania

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Title: Politics of Mauritania  
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Politics of Mauritania

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

The first fully democratic Presidential election since 1960 occurred on 11 March 2007. The election was the final transfer from military to civilian rule following the military coup in 2005. This was the first time the president was selected by ballot in the country's history. The election was won by Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who was ousted by a military coup in 2008 and replaced by general Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Personalities have long exercised an important influence in the politics of Mauritania - the effective exercise of political power in the country depends on control over resources; perceived ability or integrity; and tribal, ethnic, family, and personal considerations. Conflict between white Moor, black Moor, and non-Moor ethnic groups, centering on language, land tenure, and other issues, continues to pose challenges to the idea of national unity.


  • Political administration 1
  • Political history 2
    • Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya's rule (1984-2005) 2.1
    • August 2005 military coup 2.2
    • Dispute with Woodside Petroleum 2.3
    • 2007 Presidential election 2.4
    • 2008 coup d'état 2.5
  • Executive branch 3
  • Legislative branch 4
  • Political parties and elections 5
  • Administrative divisions 6
  • International organization participation 7
  • References 8

Political administration

The government bureaucracy comprises traditional ministries, special agencies, and parastatal companies. The Ministry of Interior controls a system of regional governors and prefects modeled on the French system of local administration. Under this system, Mauritania has 13 regions (wilaya), including the capital district, Nouakchott. Control remains tightly concentrated in the executive branch of the central government, but a series of national and municipal elections since 1992 have produced some limited decentralization.

Political history

Mauritania achieved independence from France in 1960. After independence, President multi-party democracy. Under this one-party constitution, Daddah was reelected in uncontested elections in 1966, 1971 and 1976. Daddah was ousted in a bloodless coup on July 10, 1978.

A committee of military officers governed Mauritania from July 1978 to April 1992. A referendum approved the current constitution in July 1991.

Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya's rule (1984-2005)

The Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social (PRDS), led by President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, has dominated Mauritanian politics since the country's first multi-party elections in April 1992 following the approval by referendum of the current constitution in July 1991. President Taya, who won elections in 1992 and 1997, first became chief of state through a December 12, 1984 bloodless coup which made him chairman of the committee of military officers that governed Mauritania from July 1978 to April 1992.

Political parties were legalized again in 1991. By April 1992, as civilian rule returned, 16 major political parties had been recognized; 12 major political parties were active in 2004. By April 1992, as civilian rule returned, 15 political parties had gained recognition. Among the mostly small groupings, two main opposition parties emerged:

  1. the Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD)
  2. the Action for Change (AC)--traditionally considered the party of the Haratines.

Most opposition parties boycotted the first legislative election in 1992, and for nearly a decade the Democratic and Social Republican Party (PRDS) dominated the parliament. The opposition participated in municipal elections in January–February 1994 and in subsequent elections for the Senate, gaining representation at the local level as well as one seat in the Senate. Noting procedural changes and opposition gains in municipal and legislative contests, most local observers considered the October 2001 elections open and transparent. The opposition participated in municipal elections in January–February 1994 and subsequent Senate elections, most recently in April 2004, gaining representation at the local level as well as three seats in the Senate.

In October 2001, Mauritania held its third legislative and fifth municipal elections since the establishment of multi-party politics under the 1991 constitution. In an effort to forestall the sort of widespread accusations of fraud and manipulation which had accompanied previous elections, the government introduced new safeguards, including published voter lists and a hard-to-falsify voter identification card. Reversing a trend of election boycotts, 15 opposition parties nominated candidates for more than 3,000 municipal posts and for the 81-member National Assembly. Four opposition parties won a combined 11 seats in the National Assembly and took 15% of the municipal posts. The ruling Democratic and Social Republican Party (PRDS), in conjunction with two coalition parties, won the remaining contests. See 2003 Mauritania election

Mauritania's presidential election, its third since adopting the democratic process in 1992, took place on November 7, 2003. Six candidates, including Mauritania's first female and first Haratine (former slave family) candidates, represented a wide variety of political goals and backgrounds. Incumbent President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya won reelection with 67.02% of the popular vote, according to the official figures, with ex-head-of-state Col. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla finishing second.

Sid'Ahmed Taya recognized the State of Israel some years before his fall, and started cooperating with the United States in antiterrorism activities. His antiterrorist crackdowns were criticized by some human rights NGOs, who talked of an exaggeration and instrumentalization of alleged terrorist activities for political aims.

A group identifying itself as the Military Council for Justice and Democracy overthrew the Taya government on 3 August 2005 during the absence of the President in Saudi Arabia. The military dictatorship said it would remain in power for two years in order to allow time for implementing democratic institutions.

August 2005 military coup

In August 2005, a military coup led by Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall ended Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya's 21 years of strong-arm rule.

On August 3, the Mauritanian military, including members of the presidential guard, seized control of key points in the capital of Nouakchott. They took advantage of President Taya's attendance at the funeral of Saudi King Fahd to organize the coup, which took place without loss of life. The officers, calling themselves the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, released the following statement:

The national armed forces and security forces have unanimously decided to put a definitive end to the oppressive activities of the defunct authority, which our people have suffered from during the past years. (BBC)

The Military Council later issued another statement naming as president Col. Mohamed Vall, director of the national police force, the Sûreté Nationale, since 1987, and listing 16 other officers as members.

Col. Mohamed Vall was once regarded as a firm ally of the now-ousted president Sid'Ahmed Taya, even aiding him in the original coup that brought him to power, and later serving as his security chief. This high-level betrayal of the former president suggests broad discontent within the branches of local government, which is further supported by the lack of bloodshed and the population's support of the rebel militaries.

Applauded by the Mauritanian people, but cautiously watched by the international community, the coup has since been generally accepted, while the military junta has promised to organize elections within two years.

Parliamentary and municipal elections were held on the 19 November 2006 [1].

Israel's recognition by the Islamic Republic of Mauritania was maintained by the new regime.

Dispute with Woodside Petroleum

In February 2006, the Mauritanian government denounced amendments to an oil contract made by former leader Maaouiya Ould Taya with Woodside Petroleum, an Australian company. In 2004, Woodside had agreed to invest $US 600 million in developing Mauritania's Chinguetti offshore oil project. The controversial amendments, which Mauritanian authorities declared had been signed "outside the legal framework of normal practice, to the great detriment of our country", could cost Mauritania up to $200 million a year, according to BBC News. Signed by Woodside two weeks after the February 1, 2005 legislation authorizing the four amendments, they provided for a lower state quota in the profit-oil, and reduced taxes by 15 percent in certain zones. They also eased environmental constraints, and extended the length and scope of the exploitation and exploration monopoly, among other measures.

The disputed amendments were signed by former oil minister Zeidane Ould Hmeida in February 2004 and March 2005. Hmeida was arrested in January 2006 on charges of "serious crimes against the country's essential economic interests".

Nouakchott's authorities declared that the government would likely seek international arbitration, which Woodside (which operated for Hardman, BG Group, Premier, ROC Oil, Fusion, Petronas, Dana Petroleum, Energy Africa and the Hydrocarbons Mauritanian Society) also contemplated.

Discovered in 2001, Chinguetti has proven reserves of about 120,000,000 barrels (19,000,000 m3) of oil. At the end of December 2005, authorities estimated that in 2006, the oil profits would be 47 billion ouguiyas (about US$180 million) and represent a quarter of the state budget, according to RFI.[1]

2007 Presidential election

The first fully democratic Presidential election since 1960 occurred on 11 March 2007. The election is the final transfer from military to civilian rule following the military coup in 2005. This is the first time the president will have been selected by ballot in the country's history.[2]

The election was won by Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi

Slavery is still said to exist in Mauritania, some 100 years after slavery officially ended in the West and since it was officially abolished in the country in 1981.[2]

2008 coup d'état

On August 6, 2008, Mauritania's presidential spokesman Abdoulaye Mamadouba said President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf and the interior minister, were arrested by renegade Senior Mauritanian army officers, unknown troops and a group of generals, and were held under house arrest at the presidential palace in Nouakchott.[3][4][5] In the apparently successful and bloodless coup d'état, Abdallahi daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi said: "The security agents of the BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion) came to our home and took away my father."[6] The coup plotters are top fired Mauritania’s security forces, which include General Muhammad Ould ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz, General Muhammad Ould Al-Ghazwani, General Philippe Swikri, and Brigadier General (Aqid) Ahmad Ould Bakri.[7] Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar, announced that "many of the country's people were supporting the takeover attempt and the government is "an authoritarian regime" and that the president had "marginalized the majority in parliament."[8]

Executive branch

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz Union for the Republic 5 August 2009
Prime Minister Yahya Ould Hademine Independent 20 August 2014

Legislative branch

The Parliament (Barlamane/Parlement) has two chambers. The National Assembly (Al Jamiya al-Wataniyah/Assemblée Nationale) has 81 members, elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies. The Senate (Majlis al-Shuyukh/Sénat) has 56 members, 53 members elected for a six-year term by municipal councillors with one third renewed every two years and 3 members elected by Mauritanians abroad. The position of the parliament in the present situation is unclear.

Political parties and elections

 Summary of the 11 March and 25 March 2007 Mauritanian presidential election results
Candidates – Parties 1st round 2nd round
Votes % Votes %
Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi 183,726 24.80 373,520 52.85
Ahmed Ould DaddahRally of Democratic Forces 153,252 20.69 333,185 47.15
Zeine Ould Zeidane 113,182 15.28
Messaoud Ould BoulkheirPopular Alliance for Progress 72,493 9.79
Ibrahima Moctar Sarr 58,878 7.95
Saleh Ould HanennaMauritanian Party of Union and Change 56,700 7.65
Mohamed Ould MaouloudUnion of the Forces of Progress 30,254 4.08
Dahane Ould Ahmed Mahmoud 15,326 2.07
Mohamed Ould Cheikhna 14,200 1.92
Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla 12,813 1.73
Ethmane Ould Cheikh Ebi El Maali 10,868 1.47
Ba Mamadou AlassaneParty for Liberty, Equality and Justice 4,076 0.55
Mohamed Ahmed Ould Baba Ahmed Ould Salihi 2,779 0.38
Moulaye El Hacen Ould JeidMauritanian Party for Renewal and Concord 2,535 0.34
Ch'bih Ould Cheikh Melainine - Popular Front 2,111 0.28
Rajel dit Rachid MoustaphaMauritanian Party for Renewal 1,977 0.27
Sidi Ould Isselmou Ould Mohamed Ahid 1,784 0.24
Isselmou Ould El MoustaphaParty of Democratic Convergence 1,779 0.24
Mohamed Ould Mohamed El Moctar Ould Tomi 1,465 0.20
Mohamed Ould Ghoulam Ould Sidaty 652 0.09
Total valid votes 740,850 100.0 706,705 100.00
Total valid poll(turnout 70.2 %/67.4 ) 794,979 764,045
Sources: African Elections, African Press Agency
 Summary of the 19 November and 3 December 2006 Mauritanian parliamentary election results
Parties Votes % Seats
1st round
2nd round
Al-Mithaq (moderate Islamist independents) 10 31 41
RFD-UFP Rally of Democratic Forces (Regroupement des Forces Démocratiques) 12 3 15
Union of Forces of Progress (Union des Forces du Progrès) 3 5 8
RFD-UFP 0 2 2
Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal (Parti Républicain Démocratique et Renouvellement) 4 3 7
APP-HATEM People's Progressive Alliance (Alliance populaire progressiste) 4 1 5
Mauritanian Party of Union and Change (Parti mauritanien de l'union et du changement-HATEM) 2 0 2
Rally for Democracy and Unity (Rassemblement pour la Démocratie et l'Unité) 2 1 3
Union for Democracy and Progress (Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès) 1 2 3
Democratic Renovation (Rénovation Démocratique) 2 0 2
People's Front (Front populaire) 1 0 1
Social-Democratic Unionist Party (Parti unioniste démocratique et socialiste) 1 0 1
National Rally for Democracy, Liberty and Equality (Rassemblement national pour la liberté, la démocratie et l'égalité) 1 0 1
Union of the Democratic Center (Union du centre démocratique) 0 1 1
Alternative (Alternative) 0 1 1
Total 43 52 95
Source: IPU
 Summary of the 21 January and 4 February 2007 Senate of Mauritania election results
Parties 1st round 2nd round Total
Votes % Seats Votes % Seats
Al-Mithaq (moderate Islamist independents) 2,258 63.14 23 1,081 69.79 11 34
Rally of Democratic Forces (Regroupement des Forces Démocratiques) and allies 365 10.21 5 98 6.33 1 6
Rally of Democratic ForcesUnion of Forces of Progress (RFD-UFP) 76 4.91 1 1
Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal (Parti Républicain Démocratique et Renouvellement) 231 6.46 3 3
Union of Forces of Progress (Union des Forces du Progrès) 129 3.61 1 29 1.87 0 1
Coalition of Forces for Democratic Change (Coalition des Forces de Changements) 83 2.32 3 3
Mauritanian Party of Union and Change (Parti mauritanien de l'union et du changement/HATEM) and allies 31 0.87 1 103 6.65 2 3
Union for Democracy and Progress (Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès) and allies 28 0.78 1 1
People's Progressive Alliance (Alliance populaire progressiste) and allies 12 0.34 1 1
representatives of the diaspora 3
Total 3,137 100.0 38 1,387 100.0 15 56

Administrative divisions

Mauritania is divided in 12 regions (regions, singular - region) and 1 capital district*; Guidimaka, Hodh Ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Inchiri, Nouakchott*, Tagant, Tiris Zemmour, Trarza

International organization participation



  1. ^ "Mauritania and firm row over oil". BBC News. February 6, 2006. "Crise ouverte avec la compagnie pétrolière Woodside". Radio France International. February 6, 2006. 
  2. ^ "'"Mauritania vote 'free and fair. BBC News. 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  3. ^, Coup in Mauritania as president, PM arrested
  4. ^, Troops stage 'coup' in Mauritania
  5. ^, Coup under way in Mauritania: president's office
  6. ^,Mauritania president under house arrest as army stages coup
  7. ^, Generals Seize Power in Mauritanian Coup
  8. ^, Renegade army officers stage coup in Mauritania
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