Mauritania: Ghazouani re-elected for second term, promising stability in turbulent region

Provisional results showed Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has won Saturday’s election in the northwest African country by a wide margin, well ahead of his rival Biram Dah Abeid, according to the electoral commission.

The 67-year-old incumbent has been re-elected, having secured 56.12% of the vote, according to provisional results from over 99.27% of polling stations released by the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) this Monday July 1.

Ghazouani’s nearest rival, anti-slavery rights activist Biram Dah Abeid, lagged far behind, winning 22.10%, CENI said.

Faced with six challengers in the general election, Ghazouani was, however, widely expected to win. The president has vowed, if reelected, to bring in more investments to stimulate higher economic growth and the implementation of social programs to eradicate poverty and prevent extremism in the vast desert nation, where many people live in poverty. The country possesses mineral wealth and is set to become a gas producer soon.

While widely considered as a hub of relative stability in a region characterized by much unrest, Mauritania has been denounced for human rights abuses, with the continuous existence of slavery casting a long shadow over its history. The country is deeply divided between the Arab-Berber community at the helm and a Black Mauritanian populace from the northwest Sahara still suffering the effects of slavery. The latter slam curbs on linguistic diversity in the form of a controversial law making Arabic the official language in schools, which has been stirring discontent.

But Ghazouani, a former security boss and army chief, is widely regarded as the mastermind behind the country’s relative security in a region that has in recent years seen a string of military coups and escalating jihadism, particularly in Mali.