Mauritania: the need for democracy

30 May 2012

The situation in Mauritania continues to be of great concern to the Socialist International. Under the current regime of Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Mauritania is suffering from a serious institutional crisis, a political impasse, the failure of the state to deliver to its citizens, deteriorating living conditions, and the mismanagement and misappropriation of national resources.

Joining forces to bring about change from the current regime, 11 opposition parties have formed the Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) to unify their efforts in favour of democratic change. The Assembly of Democratic Forces (RFD), an SI member party under the leadership of Ahmed Ould Daddah, has for more than two decades been at the forefront of calls for genuinely free and fair elections and a democratic way out of the crisis.

The non-compliance with the dates fixed by Mauritanian law for the holding of legislative and municipal elections has effectively plunged Mauritania into a constitutional crisis. The constitution of Mauritania limits the mandate of deputies to five years, a term which expired in November 2011. As a result, for seven months the National Assembly has been legislating outside of the legal framework.

The result is that the National Assembly is now constitutionally void of all its powers, rending the parliamentary majority illegitimate. Despite this, the regime continues to exercise power with impunity and showing complete disregard for the constitution and electoral timetable of Mauritania.

In order to bring about an end to this crisis and deadlock, the COD has proposed that a transitional government take power. Such an administration would include representatives from all parties, with the goal of preparing elections to allow Mauritania’s political institutions to regain their legitimacy. These elections would be organised in their entirety by a consensus-based Independent National Election Commission (CENI). The results of these elections must be validated by an equally consensus-based Constitutional Council. These two conditions are indispensable in order to finally have a truly transparent and fair vote.

For many years, ordinary Mauritanians have suffered as a consequence of political mismanagement. Massive unemployment, steep rises in the price of essential products and extremely limited healthcare provisions paint a picture of a catastrophic social situation. These shortfalls, combined with a failing national education system, close horizons and have left many Mauritanians without the opportunity to fulfil their potential and make a better life for themselves.

Citizens across the country are expressing their dissatisfaction. The efforts of the RFD and COD have successfully mobilised democratic activists to call for respect of their rights and opportunities. The recent removal of autocratic and anti-democratic regimes in the Arab world and western Africa have equally given impetus to demands for true democracy in Mauritania.

Throughout this turbulent period, the Socialist International has continued to express its full support and solidarity to the RFD and all democrats in Mauritania. In this moment where democratic change is sweeping the Arab world, we are convinced that in Mauritania too, democracy will open the way for a fairer, more prosperous and more secure future.