President Ghazouani Secures Re-Election Amid Controversy

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani wins re-election with over 56% of votes, as opposition cries foul over alleged election irregularities.

Published July 02, 2024 - 00:07am

4 minutes read
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Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has secured a second term in office following the recent presidential election held on Saturday. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, Ghazouani won 56.12% of the vote, staving off a second-round runoff by a comfortable margin of 6.12%. This was based on results from over 99% of polling stations.

The 67-year-old former army chief of staff has been lauded for bringing relative stability to the West African nation of 4.7 million people during his first term, especially when compared to the turmoil in neighboring countries. With natural gas production set to commence by the end of the year, Ghazouani's administration has promised a commodities boom that could significantly boost Mauritania's economy.

His main challenger, prominent anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid, secured the second spot with 22.14% of the vote. However, Abeid has refused to accept the election results, dubbing it an electoral coup. He has vowed to campaign for an investigation into alleged election fraud, further igniting tensions in the capital, Nouakchott. Supporters of Abeid took to the streets, resulting in clashes with security forces. The Interior Ministry reported it had successfully quelled riots involving tyre burning, disrupting traffic flow, and attempting to intimidate peaceful citizens and damage their property.

Other candidates in the election included Hamadi Ould Sidi El Mokhtar, the leader of the opposition Islamist party National Rally for Reform and Development (Tewassoul), who came in third with 12.76% of the vote. El Mokhtar had warned of his party's refusal to accept the results if suspected rigging occurred. His sentiments echo a broader discontent among opposition candidates, who in the 2019 elections also questioned the vote's credibility, sparking minor protests.

The incumbent president's re-election was supported by his ruling party's landslide victory in the legislative elections of 2023. A key factor in Ghazouani's favor has been the avoidance of the instability that has plagued other West African nations, many of which have suffered from coups and Islamist insurgencies.

Ghazouani has been vocal about transforming Mauritania's economic landscape, particularly through natural gas production. The nation's venture into natural gas, primarily through its share in the Grand Tortue Ahmeyim offshore gas project that borders Senegal, is projected to boost economic growth from 4.3% in 2024 to 5.5% by 2025, according to the International Monetary Fund. Furthermore, he has committed to increasing investments in renewable energy and expanding mining activities to include gold, uranium, and iron ore.

The controversy surrounding the recent election highlights deep-seated issues within Mauritania's political landscape. While Ghazouani championed policies aimed at attracting investment and fostering economic growth, his administration has faced criticism from opposition figures like Abeid, who challenge Ghazouani's human rights record and accuse his government of marginalizing Mauritania's Black African population.

The nation's electoral commission reported a voter turnout of approximately 55.39%, slightly over half of the 1.9 million registered voters. The commission's role has also been put under scrutiny, with both Abeid and El Mokhtar expressing concerns over its impartiality. Abeid notably stated that his party would utilize its own electoral commission to proclaim results, thereby increasing the likelihood of further discord.

Amidst the electoral turmoil, Ghazouani has pledged to respect the voters' choice. Following his vote on Saturday, he affirmed his commitment to fostering democratic values. Yet, opposition skepticism remains, as evidenced by the immediate backlash from rival candidates.

The next few weeks will be pivotal for Mauritania, as the Constitutional Council must validate and officially proclaim the final results. Ghazouani's impending term is expected to accentuate efforts in fortifying economic growth and maintaining the tenuous stability of this desert nation.

Ghazouani's win is significant not just for Mauritania but also for international stakeholders, especially the European Union, which is set to become a major customer for Mauritania's gas. As the country navigates through its electoral dispute and prepares to harness its natural resources, the world watches closely.


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