Mauritania is a republic whose constitution
is based on the French constitution with so-called
semi-presidential rule. This means that the president
has great powers but shares government power with the
prime minister. For most of the time after independence
in 1960, the country was ruled by military regimes. The
1991 Constitution provides for multi-party systems, but
the democratic deficiencies are large.
Mohammed Ould Abdelaziz ruled Mauritania between 2008
and 2019. He came to power through a military coup,
which was condemned abroad but accepted by a majority of
MPs and mayors in the country. Abdelaziz won big in the
2009 and 2014 presidential elections, while his party
mate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani became president in the 2019
Total population and chart of Mauritania for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The president is elected for five years and can be
re-elected. A presidential candidate must get more than
50 percent of the vote in the election to win, otherwise
a second round of elections will be held between the two
leading candidates. The president appoints a head of
government to lead the government's work. The president
can dismiss the head of government.
The legislative Parliament consists of two chambers.
The National Assembly has 157 members since the 2018
election (against 146 before). They are elected in
general elections for a term of five years, in a mixture
of majority and proportional elections. Of the 56
members of the Senate, 53 are appointed by local leaders
and three by Mauritania overseas. The senators are
elected for six years and a third of the senate is to be
replaced every two years, although this has not happened
in the 2010s.
Mauritanian politics is dominated by the Beidan group
(white Moors, see Population and Languages). The power
play within both is characterized more by clan and
regional affiliation than by ideological contradictions.
The military also has a strong influence.
By far the biggest is the Union
Party for the Republic (Union pour la
République, UPR), which was formed by
Abdelaziz after the coup in 2008. Many MPs left their
old parties after the coup and joined the new
presidential party. The allocation of seats after the
2006 election thus effectively ceased to apply and many
previous parties had played their part. After the 2013
and 2018 elections, UPR, along with a number of allied
parties, gained an overwhelming dominance.
In an effort to challenge President Abdelaziz and the
UPR, eleven parties in 2009 merged into the Alliance
National Forum for Democracy and Unity
(Forum National pour la Democracy et l'Unité,
FNDU), which is usually described as "the
radical opposition". FNDU also appears under the term
Coordination of the Democratic Opposition
(Coordination de l'Opposition Démocratique, COD).
The majority of opposition parties boycotted the
parliamentary elections in 2013, citing the lack of
conditions for free elections. The entire FNDU / COD
refrained from participating, with the exception of the
Islamist party Tawassoul, with the
official name National Assembly for Reform and
Development (Rassemblement National pour la
Reforme et le Dévelopement, RNRD),
which has links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Tawassoul was
banned until 2007. In the 2018 election, FNDU
The FNUD / COD also includes the Left Party
Democratic Forces (Rassemblement des Forces
Democratiques, RFD) led by Ahmed Ould
Daddah and considered a leading opposition party.
Another left is the Union of Forces of
Progress (UFP). A third is the
People's Progressive Alliance (Alliance
Populaire Progressiste, APP), which is
the party of the Black Moors. It has long been led by
former Speaker Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, who ran in the
2003, 2007, 2009 and 2019 presidential elections but
lost all the time to UPR's candidates.
The organization Initiative to revive the
anti-slavery movement (Initiative pour la
Resurgence du Mouvement Abolitioniste,
IRA-Mauritaine or just IRA)
has been barred from registering as a party. Its leader
Birham Ould Dah Ould Abeid came second in the 2014
presidential election but was sentenced to prison the
following year (see Current Policy).
In Mauritania there are also groups of radical
Islamists. The militant regional al-Qaeda group
in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim)
is active in the country. Since 2005, Islamic attacks
against military posts, embassies and tourists have
become increasingly common.