Mauritanian presidential vote marks first democratic transfer of power

Mauritania will hold its first round of presidential elections today. This is expected to be the country’s first peaceful transfer

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Photo: Reuters

Mauritania will hold its first round of presidential elections today. This is expected to be the country’s first peaceful transfer of power since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Should no candidate receive more than half the vote, there will be a runoff vote on July 6.

Following a constitutional referendum in 2006, one can serve no more than two five-year terms in the post. Current President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, who rose to power in the country’s 2008 coup, will be stepping down as his constitutionally-allotted time in power draws to an end. This is promising, given efforts by other regional leaders to shirk term limits.

The current frontrunner is Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mohamed Ahmed Ghazouani, a close ally of the president. He is closely trailed by the former finance minister, Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar. Though Ghazouani is expected to win the most votes today, a close runoff between the two main candidates should be expected. Whoever the next president is will need to address Mauritania’s stagnant wage growth and tackle its persistent human trafficking and slave labour problems, lest the country’s already-discontent youth convert mass demonstrations to civil unrest.

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