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.