The ruling party in Mauritania won a large victory in the legislative, regional and municipal elections of May 13, according to official results announced on Sunday May 21, a victory which reinforces the position of President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani but which the opposition considers tainted by "gross fraud".
These elections aimed to elect 176 deputies, 13 regional councils and 238 municipal councils, one year before the presidential election. The El Insaf party, of President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani in power since 2019, won 80 seats of deputies, according to the provisional official results read by the president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Céni), Dah Ould Abdel Jelil.
About ten formations members of the presidential movement obtained 36, and the opposition 24 including 9 for its main formation, the Islamist movement Tewassoul. A second round is scheduled for May 27 to fill 36 deputies in the new National Assembly, with two systems in place depending on the type of constituency. The ruling party, which largely controls the outgoing Assembly, also wins the 13 regional councils at stake and wins in 165 out of 238 municipalities. The rest of the municipalities are divided between parties of the presidential majority and the opposition.
The opposition denounces "enormous fraud"
Turnout stood at 71.8% for these elections in which 25 political parties participated. The official total figures must be validated by the Supreme Court. The El Insaf party was the only one to field candidates in all constituencies. Its main challengers were the Islamist movement Tewassoul and the Sawab party, of Arab nationalist obedience, which benefits from an alliance with the anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid, second in the last presidential election, whose formation is not authorized.
Opposition parties denounced "enormous fraud" on May 13, during a press briefing on Friday. They plan to demonstrate next week to denounce them and demand the resumption of voting in Nouakchott and Boutilimit, a locality located 150 km east of the capital. A dozen parties of the presidential majority also denounced "notorious shortcomings and weaknesses [in the functioning] of the Ceni" and called for a resumption of voting throughout the country, during a meeting with the press Thursday.
The president of the Ceni hailed the "massive participation of the Mauritanian people in calm and discipline" during the vote. The Ceni "shares with the political class the firm will and ambition to organize elections without grievance", he said, referring to "the enormous difficulties it had to face in holding" this triple ballot. The campaign took place in a peaceful atmosphere. A dialogue between the opposition and the authorities at the start of the year had made it possible to reach a consensus on the organization of the elections.
Success in the face of jihadism
Mauritanian presidents have always had a strong majority in the Assembly since the introduction of a multiparty system in 1991. Mr. Ghazouani, 66, a general considered one of the great architects of Mauritania's success in the face of jihadism since 2011 in his former functions of head of the army, refrained from expressing himself on the possibility of running for a second term. But his candidacy is considered obvious in Mauritania.
"El Insaf will secure a majority in all elections and President Ghazouani will strengthen his chances of being re-elected in 2024," said Adam Hilelly, an analyst at 14 North Strategies, an American consulting firm specializing in Africa. After an economic slowdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and then the war in Ukraine, Mr. Ghazouani has made the fight against poverty one of his priorities. The rising cost of living is one of the main concerns of voters.
The May 13 elections were the first since Mr. Ghazouani took over the leadership of this vast West African country in 2019, recognized as one of the few poles of stability in the Sahel, a region troubled by jihadist attacks.