Mauritania was ruled over a decade by
Mohammed Ould Abdelaziz and the Union for the Republic (UPR).
The country's economy became stronger during Abdelaziz's
two terms of office and the government fought hard
terrorism in the country. In the 2019 presidential
election, regime-backed candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani
won. He seemed to be pursuing the same policy as the
representative, which he soon renounced.
Abdelaziz took power in a military coup in the summer
of 2008 (see Modern History). A transitional government
was appointed and presidential elections were scheduled
for June 2009. The opposition threatened to boycott the
election, citing preparation time was too short. After
talks in Senegal, representatives of the military regime
and the opposition agreed to postpone the election for a
month. At the same time, the parties agreed to form a
national unity government. The so-called Dakar agreement
also meant that the parties would together discuss
issues related to changes in the electoral system and
the influence of the army on politics.
Country facts and history of Mauritania, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
The Dakar agreement also led the African Union (AU),
which had excluded Mauritania after the coup and imposed
sanctions on the regime, once again accepted the country
as a member.
The presidential election was held in July 2009 and
won by Abdelaziz, who got 53 percent of the vote in the
first round. The next most votes were Messaoud Ould
Boulkheir, who led the party of the Progressive Alliance
(APP) of the Haratins (the Black Moors). In third place
came Ahmed Ould Daddah from the Democratic Forces
Collection (RFD). There were reports of widespread
cheating, but the result was approved by the Supreme
Court despite the fact that the chairman of the Election
Commission left his post "for conscience reasons".
Fight against terrorism
After the election, Abdelaziz promised to address
terrorism in the country, where the militant Islamist
group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) is active.
According to Mauritanian authorities, the group is
responsible for a series of terrorist attacks, both
against the military and against foreign nationals,
sometimes with deadly consequences. Several Westerners
have been kidnapped by groups suspected of having links
An anti-terror law that was passed in 2010 gave the
security forces extended powers. In the same year, three
people were sentenced to death for the murder of four
French tourists in 2007. It was the first death sentence
issued in the country in over 20 years.
In addition to the fight against terrorism, the
government also promised to continue the privatization
of state property initiated by previous governments, and
to strengthen the tax system and keep wages and
expenditures in the public sector.
At the end of 2009, several of the opposition parties
chose to merge into an alliance, called the National
Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNUD) or Coordination of
the Democratic Opposition (COD). In addition to the RFD
and APP joined in 2008, President Sidi Mohammed Ould al-Cheikh
Abdellahi's National Pact for Democracy and Development
(PNDD), Progressive Forces Union (UFP) and Islamic
National Assembly for Reform and Development (RNRD)
joined the alliance.
A few months later, the ruling party UPR, which had
been founded by Abdelaziz after the 2008 coup, formed a
valiant alliance with ten other parties.
Protest actions and social concerns
Strikes and protests took place in 2010 and gained
momentum as popular protests against dictatorships in
several North African countries swept across the region
in early 2011. On several occasions, large
demonstrations were held against the government, which
then promised to hire more public sector officials,
invest in work for young people and increase subsidies
In 2011, the country was also shaken by
demonstrations against, among other things, slavery.
This led to violent clashes with the police and several
people were injured and arrested.
The parliamentary elections that would have been held
in 2011 were postponed several times but were held in
two rounds at the end of 2013. The elections were
boycotted for most of the opposition. The only party in
the FNUD / COD that participated was the Islamist party
Tawassoul, which was represented in Parliament for the
first time. The UPR government itself won more than half
of the mandate and, together with a dozen or so allied
parties, received a total of 110 of the 147 mandates.
President Abdelaziz is re-elected
In June 2014, President Abdelaziz was re-elected with
almost 82 percent of the vote. The grand victory was
expected as most opposition parties again refused to
participate, citing the lack of democratic conditions.
Abdelaziz's closest challenger was Biram Ould Dah Ould
Abeid, head of the IRA-Mauritaine anti-slavery
organization (see Political system). Ould Abeid was
elected independent and received 9 percent of the vote.
He appealed the election results, claiming that cheating
and irregularities had occurred.
In August, Yahya Ould Hademine, an engineer, was
appointed new Prime Minister.
In early 2015, former presidential candidate Ould
Abeid and two other anti-slavery activists were
sentenced to two years in prison for membership in an
illegal organization and participation in an
unauthorized demonstration. The verdict was criticized
by human rights organizations.
Slavery remains a contentious issue in Mauritania.
Formally, it has been banned since 1981, but in reality
it exists to a large extent (see Population and
languages). In 2015, the legislation was further
tightened, including a broader definition of slavery and
longer sentences. Few judgments have been sentenced, but
in March 2018, three people between 10 and 20 years were
sentenced to prison for slavery, something that slave
opponents saw as an important breakthrough.
President Abdelaziz made a proposal in 2017 to
abolish the Senate and several other state agencies, and
to change the country's flag. He pointed out that the
Senate was expensive and unnecessary, and said he wanted
to strengthen "peace, security, stability and
development". The opposition was critical, claiming that
the president planned to go ahead with the
constitutional amendments in order to run for
re-election in 2019, something that prevents the
constitution. When the sitting Senate in March 2017
unexpectedly voted against the proposal, the president
called for a referendum. The opposition decided to
boycott the vote, which helped to approve the
president's proposal in August by a large margin.
UPR reigns further
The UPR won big in the general elections in September
2018. The ruling party gained its own majority in
parliament, winning all 13 regional elections and in
most municipalities. Hundreds of parties lined up with
candidates, more than in any previous election. FNDU was
also a candidate, unlike the 2013 election.
After the election, Prime Minister Yahya Ould
Hademine was replaced by Mohamed Salem Ould Béchir. The
Minister of Defense was also replaced, but otherwise the
old ministers were allowed to remain.
Before the June 2019 presidential election, the
opposition failed to agree on a joint presidential
candidate. Instead, five opposition candidates
challenged UPR's candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani. Among
the opposition candidates were Mohamed Ould Maaloud,
supported by Tawassoul, the anti-slavery movement's
candidate Biram Dah Abeidwho and the former Prime
Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar. The opposition
complained that there were too few independent electoral
workers and accused the UPR of engaging in voice buying
in the countryside.
The electoral movement was dominated by financial
issues. The regime's candidate Ghazouani sought support
from voters by talking about the importance of
continuity, solidarity and security. He promised to give
priority to the country's economy and internal security.
New president, some change of course
The presidential election was held under calm
conditions. Ghazouani won with 52 percent of the vote,
which meant a second round of voting was not needed. His
main opponent, anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeidwho,
received just over 18 percent of the vote, while former
Prime Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar came in third
place. Both claimed that cheating had taken place. The
Election Commission disputed this, but it was criticized
by the opposition candidates for being biased.
Mauritania had declined to accept independent
international election observers. Following the
opposition's criticism of the elections, the authorities
shut down the internet and social media. Soldiers were
deployed to Nouakchott to secure the streets.
Six months after President Ghazouani's election
victory in June 2019, he seemed to have taken a firm
grip on power. His former mentor, President Abdel Aziz,
seemed to have been neglected. An attempt by Abdel Aziz
to stay in power by retaining the post of chairman of
DPR was halted. The heads of the president's bodyguard
were dismissed. In March 2020, four of Abdel Aziz's
political opponents returned to the country after a long
period of exile.
Ghazouani became popular when he, as chief of staff,
succeeded in keeping jihadist groups outside Mauritania,
at the same time as neighboring Mali, for example, was
severely plagued by Islamist violence. Ghazouani has
strong support within the ruling DPR. In addition,
several parties, including the opposition Adil, have
joined his party alliance. Former Prime Minister Sidi
Mohamed Ould Boubacar, who lost the 2019 presidential
election, has also switched to Ghazouani's side.
Read more about the events in the Calendar.
FACTS - POLITICS
al-Jumhuriah al-Islamiyah al-Muritaniyah / Islamic
Republic of Mauritania
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (2019–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Ismail Ould Bedda Ould Cheikh Sidiya
Most important parties with mandates in the
UPR 89, FNDU 29 (of which Tewassoul 14), moderate
opposition 10, others 29 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
UPR 75, Tawassoul 16, El Wiam 10, APP 7, others 38
64% in the 2018 parliamentary elections (second
round), 63% in the 2019 presidential elections
parliamentary elections 2023, presidential elections