In Mauritania, Ghazouani’s Easy Victory Obscures Major Political Shifts

In Mauritania, Ghazouani’s Easy Victory Obscures Major Political Shifts
An electoral banner for Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani reading “The Safe Choice” is seen outside a campaign rally ahead of the presidential election, in Nouakchott, Mauritania, June 26, 2024 (AP photo by Mamsy Elkeihel).

On June 29, Mauritanians went to the polls in a presidential election that represented both continuity and transformation within the country’s political landscape. As was widely expected, incumbent President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won in the first round, picking up 56 percent of the vote. But the second-place finish of anti-slavery campaigner and lawmaker Biram Dah Abeid, with 22 percent, highlighted the accelerating reconfiguration of the political opposition in Mauritania.

For many outsider observers, the election will be read through a regional lens of political instability and security challenges driven by extremist violence. But in the domestic debates and candidate programs that drove the election, issues of poverty, corruption, redistribution of wealth and minority rights took center stage.

The voting itself proceeded calmly, with a reported 55 percent of the country’s nearly 2 million eligible voters turning out to cast a ballot. However, the announcement of the results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, or CENI, was met with claims of fraud by numerous opposition candidates, including Dah Abeid, who accused the CENI of preparing an electoral coup and called his supporters to the streets. In response, Interior Minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lemine evoked an attempt to destabilize the country, which he claimed had been thwarted by security forces.

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