Mauritania’s president Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz won a fresh term in elections on Saturday with 81.89% of the vote.
The outcome wasn’t particularly in doubt in the Sahelian country of 3.8 million.
Abdelaziz came to power in August 2008 in a coup against Mauritania’s elected president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who had been elected in a rare competitive election in 2007.
From within the military, Abdelaziz also played a key role in the coup that pushed Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya out of power. Ould Taya had served as Mauritania’s prime minister or president consecutively from 1981 until his ouster in August 2005, which was supposed to pave the way for greater democratic participation and genuine multi-party democracy, leading to the 2007 elections.
But Mauritania’s experiment in democracy came to halt with the 2008 coup, a return to form in a country that has now seen six leaders ousted in coups since Mauritania won independence from France in 1960.
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A former general, Abdelaziz previously served as Abdallahi’s chief of staff at the time of the coup. Abdelaziz reaffirmed his power in a 2009 presidential election.
Perhaps Abdelaziz’s most important accomplishment has been his aggressive stand against radical Islam and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which so effectively destabilized neighboring Mali in 2012 and early 2013. Despite a long, porous border with Mali, Abdelaziz preemptively attacked AQIM and associated forces, sometimes sending Mauritanian forces into Mali to rebuff jihadists. Continue reading Abdelaziz wins reelection as Mauritania’s president