President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz announced that a referendum would be held to vote for the amendment to the constitution providing notably for abolishing the senate and changing the flag.
The amendments to the constitution, which has been in force since 1991, were approved by the lower house but rejected by a majority of Senate members earlier this month.
“Due to this rejection, we have arrived at an impasse. But there is one way out: we will hold a referendum,” President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz told the press.
“”We cannot allow 33 senators who voted against these amendments to hold the whole country hostage,” he said, adding that “an exit exists, which is to go straight to a popular referendum”.
The new amendments provide for abolishing the senate and replacing it with regional councils as well as changing the flag by adding two red strips to the green and yellow flag to honor the blood split for the independence of the country from France.
Mauritania’s current bicameral legislature consists of a newly expanded 147-seat National Assembly, elected by popular vote to five-year terms, and a 56-seat Senate, with 53 members elected by mayors and municipal councils and 3 members chosen by the chamber to represent Mauritanian expatriates. One-third of the Senate is elected on a rotating basis every two years
President Abdel Aziz first came to power through a military coup in 2008. After winning the presidential election in 2009, Abdel Aziz won a second term in June 2014.