Despite the controversy surrounding his election, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani’s presidency marks the first peaceful transfer of power between democratically elected presidents.
Rabat – Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has won 52% of the vote in Mauritania’s presidential elections, held on June 22.
The president-elect was born into a Sufi family in the central Mauritanian town of Boumdeid. After he reached adulthood in the 1970s, Ghazouani volunteered in the military. His postings included commander of the Armored Corps and head of the Homeland Security Department.
Ghazouani participated in multiple coups during his time in the military. In 2008, he and outgoing president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz participated in the coup that overthrew Mauritania’s first democratically elected civilian president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallah. After the coup, Abdel Aziz resigned from the military establishment in favor of launching presidential bids.
In 2012, Ghazouni was promoted to Lieutenant General by Abdel Aziz, who won the presidency in 2009. A year later, Ghazouni became the military chief of staff. Abdel Aziz was re-elected president in 2014 after his first five-year term.
Ghazouni became Mauritania’s defense minister in October 2018 but soon left the government to pursue his presidential campaign. His presidential platform included promises to create a calm political climate, build strong state institutions, and fight corruption.
His victory comes as no surprise in Mauritania, where he holds the favor of the former head of state.
The outgoing president considers Ghazouani as representing a future of “security, development, and progress.”
Conversely, the opposition threatens “a return to insecurity, bad management and corruption where there is hate, racism, and destruction of national unity,” according to Abdel Aziz.
In the early morning of June 23, a confident Ghazouani declared himself the winner of the election to Abdel Aziz, his supporters, and journalists. The official results were announced later that day, with Ghazouani receiving a clear majority of the votes. The Independent National Electoral Commission listed voter turnout at 62.66 %.
Meanwhile, opposition candidates are rejecting the outcome of the election.
Third-place candidate Mohamed Ould Boubacar has vowed to use “every legal means” to challenge the results, which were apparently preceded by “worrying signs” of fraudulence.
Second-place candidate, and anti-slavery campaigner, Biram Dah Abeid has called on the Mauritanian people “to resist, within the bounds of the law, this umpteenth coup d’etat against the will of the people.”
Mauritania’s politics have long been ravaged by coup d’etats, and Ghazouani’s win represents the country’s first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another.