Mauritanian voters went to the polls this morning (Saturday) to vote on members of parliament and regional and local councils, but the political parties’ statements about the conduct of the elections were characterized by discrepancies, while the opposition described them as “total chaos” and spoke of “violations.”
The turnout appeared to be uneven at the polling stations in the regions of the country. While the turnout was medium to weak in some areas of the capital, Nouakchott, it was dense in other regions within the country, most notably the eastern governorates, where the population density is concentrated and the influence of the ruling party increases.
The elections took place amidst strict security measures, for fear of any violent incidents, similar to the riots that took place in the last presidential elections in 2019. Most of the voters arrived an hour before the start of voting in front of the Olympic complex in Nouakchott, which is one of the largest polling centers in Mauritania, and was crowded with crowds. Of the women and young men who are going through the voting experience for the first time in their lives, and who were enthusiastic about the idea, but with the slowness and complexity of voting, their enthusiasm began to diminish.
The complexity of the elections slowed the voting process; As each voter had to cast his vote on six different ballot papers, four of them parliamentary, and two regional and local, before putting them in six different boxes. Despite this slowdown, the Independent National Elections Commission announced at midday that the participation rate had reached 18 percent, a percentage taken from data coming from about 450 voting offices from different regions, according to the statement of the official spokesman for the commission, Muhammad Taqi Allah al-Adham, who confirmed “Initial information indicates that the process is going smoothly.”
Regarding the delay in opening some polling stations to voters, Al-Adham said that the committee decided to “extend the polling period in the polling stations whose opening was delayed beyond the specified time, with the same delay,” but he did not reveal the number of the polling stations that were late.
The opposition “National Rally for Reform and Development” party, a few hours after the start of the elections, accused the supervising committee of “failing,” and said in a statement that it “handed over the entire elections to a specific political party, the (Insaf) party, and its influence at home.”
The party, which leads the opposition, added that it had recorded “violations” in several cities, most of which were related to the delay in opening polling stations, lack of technical equipment, and the expulsion of representatives of opposition parties. Four polling stations, because of what he said were “major violations.”
After he cast his vote, the head of the opposition “Tawasul” party, Hammadi Ould Sidi Al-Mokhtar, said that in the first two hours of polling they recorded “total chaos and major breaches, and if the elections continue in this way, and in this chaos, we will have a position that we will determine at a later time.” It would be absurd if it went this way.”
For its part, the opposition “Ettakatol” party said that it had recorded “violations and illegal practices by the Independent Elections Commission in several regions,” without revealing the details of these violations. The head of the opposition “Progressive People’s Alliance” party, Massoud Ould Belkhir, said that he He found it difficult to vote “because of the difficulty of knowing the voting office in which he is registered,” and he hoped that “this election will pass smoothly, and that it will be far from any fraud.”
For his part, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Al-Ghazwani said, after casting his vote: “I would like to express my appreciation for the great effort made by the Independent National Elections Commission, and its watch to organize these elections in an appropriate manner, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the historic political agreement in our country. What happened between the government and political parties ».
Ould Al-Ghazwani added that during the election campaign, which lasted for two weeks: “The politicians said their word, and now we are all waiting for the word of the citizen who has the conditions to cast his vote freely and transparently.”
Ould Al-Ghazwani also explained that the government “insisted from the first day that these elections be successful,” noting that it had provided all the material and logistical requirements required, and concluded an agreement with political parties to be a partner in organizing the elections, and it also spent more than a billion old ounces. (3 million US dollars) to support the parties in the elections.
Several teams of foreign observers were seen touring some voting offices in the capital, including a mission from the African Union, in addition to a mission from the United States led by US Ambassador to Mauritania Cynthia Kircht, and a European mission led by the head of the European Union mission in Mauritania.
The US ambassador had visited several offices in the Olympic compound, and asked questions to the heads of offices and representatives of political parties, in addition to some voters, and her escorts were taking notes.
These elections are held according to a political agreement between the political parties and the Mauritanian Ministry of the Interior, which includes new reforms, the most prominent of which is the adoption of proportionality in the election of all regional and local councils, and its adoption also in the election of half of the members of Parliament, a point that is expected to be in favor of political parties with less popular bases. Also, these elections are the first test of the popularity of President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Al-Ghazwani, who came to power in 2019, and is preparing next year to run for presidential elections in order to obtain a second presidential mandate, according to the parties that support him.