Mauritania's Election: Candidates, Voting, and Key Issues

Voters in Mauritania are deciding the future of their nation this weekend as they choose among seven candidates for president in a highly anticipated election.

Published June 30, 2024 - 00:06am

4 minutes read

Image recovered from

Mauritanians began casting their ballots on Saturday to choose a new president among seven candidates. This election features prominent figures like human rights and anti-slavery campaigner Biram Dah Abeid and Tewassoul party chief Hamadi Ould Sid' El Moctar. Incumbent President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani is also in the running, aiming to secure a second term.

Polling stations across the country opened at 7 a.m. local time, and voting will continue for twelve hours. With 1.9 million registered voters in the nation, this election is a pivotal moment for the country of 4.5 million people. The first results are expected later in the day, but if no candidate secures a majority, a run-off will be held on July 13.

Biram Dah Abeid is known for his relentless campaign against the marginalization of the country's Black African population and the government's human rights track record. He previously ran for president in 2019, securing 18% of the vote and finishing second. Meanwhile, Hamadi Ould Sid' El Moctar leads the opposition's largest party, Tewassoul, which holds a significant number of seats in parliament.

The election holds great significance as Ghazouani, the former security boss and army chief, is widely regarded as a stabilizing force in a country that has managed to avoid the upheavals seen in other Sahel nations. His presidency is credited with maintaining peace and security while positioning Mauritania on the cusp of an economic transformation due to its impending status as a natural gas producer.

Mauritania's gas production project, particularly the giant offshore Grand Tortue Ahmeyim gas field, is expected to initially produce around 2.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas annually. This economic boon is projected to steer the country towards a robust economic growth spurt, with growth rates rising to 5.5% by 2025, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Among key campaign issues are fighting poverty, creating jobs, especially for the youth, and tackling corruption. Over 70% of the population is under the age of 35, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity in terms of shaping the nation's future. Additionally, Ghazouani has promised to expand renewable energy, invest in mining sectors like gold, uranium, and iron-ore, and start up a new gas-fired power plant from the GTA offshore project if re-elected.

The prospect of a better economic future is aligning with Mauritania's diplomatic focus, bolstering ties with the European Union, which sees the country as a key partner in energy and curbing African migration to Europe. Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have both recently paid visits to Nouakchott, emphasizing Mauritania's growing global significance.

However, the electoral race is not without its challenges and controversies. Other candidates have criticized Ghazouani's policy record, pointing out ongoing issues with human rights and economic opportunities. Prominent among these critics are Biram Dah Abeid, who has highlighted the continued marginalization of Mauritania's Black population, and Hamadi Ould Sid' El Moctar, who has accused the Mauritanian Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) of failing to ensure a fair election process.

The political landscape reflects a deep struggle for reform, with Abeid and Moctar promising radical changes aimed at mismanagement and corruption. Their calls resonate with a portion of the electorate disillusioned with the status quo.

As voting proceeded smoothly on Saturday, isolated incidents, such as scuffles between supporters of differing candidates, were reported. The government, emphasizing the importance of security, expressed readiness to address any disruptions, underscoring the nation's priority of maintaining peace.

Provisional results are expected soon, with Ghazouani holding an early lead of 45.95%, followed by Abeid with 24.64% based on a preliminary count of 4.37% of the votes. This upcoming election result could shape the trajectory of Mauritania's future, economically and politically, carving out its role on both regional and global stages.


How would you rate this article?

What to read next...