Ghazouani’s party keeps control, while focus now shifts to his own presidential bid in 2024
The ruling party in Mauritania scored a comfortable victory in legislative and local elections, according to official results, a litmus test for the veteran head of state ahead of next year’s presidential poll.
The elections were the first since 2019, when President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani came to power.
He has overseen the West African country’s relative stability in the increasingly violent Sahel region and is widely expected to seek re-election in 2024, although he has not confirmed his plans.
Ghazouani’s El Insaf party was the favourite to win among the 25 parties vying for the backing of the country’s 1.8 million voters.
El Insaf took 80 of the 176 seats in parliament, announced the head of the independent electoral commission (CENI) Dah Abdel Jelil.
Thirty-six other seats went to parties allied to the president and 24 to the opposition, nine of them to the Islamist Tewassoul movement.
Tewassoul, which is seeking a strict application of Islamic law, was the main opposition group in the outgoing parliament, in which El Insaf had a comfortable majority.
There will be a run-off vote on May 27 for the remaining 36 parliamentary seats.
El Insaf won all 13 regional councils and 165 of the 238 local constituencies up for grabs.
The opposition has complained of “massive fraud” in the elections, which saw an official turnout of 71.8 percent.
These are the first elections during Ghazouani’s presidency. It is not yet possible to predict whether the opposition forces will accept the final results, or will escalate pressure on the authorities. Observers, meanwhile, believe that El Insaf may offer some consolation to the loyalist parties to contain their reservations.
Ghazouani, 66, is a general considered one of the main architects of Mauritania’s success against jihadism, in his former role as army chief.
His party was the only one to field candidates in all constituencies in this month’s parliamentary and local polls.
This was forecast to give him a boost in next year’s presidential ballot, in particular with the vast, arid country’s rural electorate.
Mauritania’s population is divided between Arab-Berber Moors, Afro-Mauritanian descendants of slaves and other groups of sub-Saharan African origin.
Ghazouani made the fight against poverty one of his priorities, carrying out an ambitious social programme that has included distributing food and money to the poorest.
But the economy has slowed since the COVID-19 pandemic, while rising inflation due to the war in Ukraine has put cost-of-living concerns for the forefront.