Mauritania’s Weak Opposition Could Make Abdel Aziz President for Life

Mauritania’s Weak Opposition Could Make Abdel Aziz President for Life
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz during a state visit to China, Sept. 14, 2015, Beijing (AP photo by Lintao Zhang).

Earlier this month, thousands in Mauritania took to the streets to protest President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s proposed constitutional referendum that many believe is designed to allow him to seek a third term in office.* In an email interview, Noel Foster, a doctoral student at Princeton University, discussed politics in Mauritania and the reaction to the proposed reforms.

WPR: What constitutional reforms has President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz proposed, and what is driving the move?

Noel Foster: Abdel Aziz recently proposed a constitutional referendum, ostensibly to amend the constitution so as to abolish the Senate and pursue decentralization. Granted, the Senate’s 58 members are all past their terms; the last senatorial elections were held six years ago; and constitutionally one-third of senators are supposed to face re-election every two years. However, Abdel Aziz’s decision has been almost universally interpreted as an attempt to introduce a currently prohibited third presidential term. Abdel Aziz is two years into his second five-year term and is already eyeing the summer 2019 elections in the midst of an economic crisis.

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