Ould Ghazouani debuts ‘democratic pluralism’ in Mauritania

Ould Ghazouani debuts 'democratic pluralism' in Mauritania

People celebrate the presidential election victory by Mauritania's ruling party candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani in Nouakchoot on June 23, 2019. - Mauritania's ruling party candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has won the presidential election with 52 percent of the vote, the electoral commission announced on June 23, with opposition candidates crying foul. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, winner of last week’s presidential election in Mauritania, on Friday, hailed the beginning of “democratic pluralism” in the country, while the constitutional council announced that definitive election results will be released next week.

Ghazouani, a former general, is a close ally of outgoing president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz who stepped down after serving the maximum two five-year terms. 

The election represented Mauritania’s first democratic transition of power since independence from France in 1960. 

However, opposition leaders have accused the authorities of fixing the presidential poll, and say hundreds of people were arrested in a crackdown on protests that followed the June 22 vote.

Following the election, police raided opposition party headquarters, clashed with opposition supporters, and announced Tuesday they had arrested more than 100 foreigners accused of working with domestic opposition parties to destabilise the country through protests. 

Police have not said how many Mauritanians have been held.

Ghazouani – who has already received congratulations from France, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Algeria – thanked his campaign team and supporters. 

“You are today cited as an example for your self-denial and your high sense of duty,” he told thousands of his supporters.

He hailed the Mauritanian people as a whole for their “political maturity and for displaying the roots of democratic pluralism and dialogue.”

Ghazouani was speaking after the internet went back up following a three-day communications blackout.  

Mauritania’s government spokesman has stepped down after defending the blackout imposed during post-election unrest, sources said Friday as the fixed internet in the country was restored. 

Sidi Mohamed Ould Maham, also the minister of culture, handed in his resignation Thursday, ministry sources said, shortly after he gave a press conference describing the restriction as “preventive”, and promising “the internet will be restored as soon as the reasons for its disconnection disappear.” 

Neither the minister nor the government provided reasons for Ould Maham’s departure. 

Mobile network still down

While the internet was back up Friday, the mobile phone network that was disconnected last Sunday remained down, in what the opposition has claimed was a “state of siege” imposed to cover up an electoral “holdup”.

According to official results, ruling party candidate Ghazouani won Saturday’s election with 52 percent of the vote, averting the need for a second-round runoff election.

The constitutional council announced that definitive election results will be declared at 1200 GMT Monday, Mauritania’s official AMI news agency reported.

Rights groups have accused Mauritania’s government of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly while calling on the nation to do more to counter violence against women and slavery, which persists despite its official abolition in 1981.

Ghazouani campaigned on the themes of continuity, solidarity and security.

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