Mauritania election hails 'democratic pluralism', while opposition decry 'state of siege'

Mauritania election hails 'democratic pluralism', while opposition decry 'state of siege'
Mauritania remains on a knife-edge after last week's controversial election.
2 min read
29 June, 2019
Mauritania is in a 'state of siege' the opposition have said [Getty]

Mauritania remained sharply divided on Friday, as the winner of last week's presidential election, Mohammed Ould Ghazouani, hailed the beginning of "democratic pluralism" in the Saharan country.

The constitutional council announced that definitive election results of last week's controversial election will be released next week, the first democratic handover of power in the country's history.

Ghazouani, a former general, is a close ally of outgoing president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz who stepped down after serving his two five-year term maximum.

However, opposition leaders have accused authorities of fixing the presidential poll. They also claim that hundreds of protesters were arrested following the 22 June vote.

Police raided opposition party headquarters and clashed with opposition supporters after the vote.

On Tuesday, police announced that they had arrested more than 100 foreigners accused of working with domestic opposition parties to "destabilise the country".

It is not known how many Mauritanians have been held in the government clampdown.

Ghazouani - who has already received congratulations from countries including former colonial power France, as well as Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Algeria - on Friday thanked his campaign team and supporters.

"You are today cited as an example for your self-denial and your high sense of duty," he said.

He said the vote highlighted Mauritania's "political maturity and for displaying the roots of democratic pluralism and dialogue."

An internet and communications blackout was enforced in the days after the election. 

Mauritania's government spokesman defended the blackout saying "fixed" internet in the country was restored on Friday.

Sidi Mohamed Ould Maham, also the minister of culture, resigned on Thursday, shortly after he gave a press conference describing the restriction as "preventive", and promising "the internet will be restored as soon as the reasons for its disconnection disappear".

The opposition claims the country is in a "state of siege" to cover up an electoral "holdup".

Ruling party candidate Ghazouani won Saturday's election with 52 percent of the vote, averting the need for a second-round runoff election, according to the official vote.

The constitutional council announced that definitive election results will be declared at 1200 GMT Monday, Mauritania's official AMI news agency reported.