Several political parties held rallies in different parts of the northwest African country. Mauritania’s ruling Union for the Republic Party of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz listed its many “achievements” to voters on Thursday.
Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Seyidi, head of the opposition National Rally for Reform and Development Party (“Tewassoul”) said opposition parties were taking part in the polls “despite the lack of transparency”.
The campaigning period will continue for the next two weeks, and for the first time, parties will also compete for seats in Mauritania’s 13 regional councils.
The campaign is however marred by arrests of dissident voices. The president of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) and former presidential candidate Biram Dah Abeid was arrested at his home on August 7 while Abdellahi el Housein Mesoud, an IRA member was arrested two days later.
Online journalists Babacar Ndiaye and Mahmoudi Ould Saibout were also arrested on August 8 after posting an article critical of a France-based lawyer close to the Mauritanian government.
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz earlier this year reiterated that he would not stand for re-election next year, allowing for a peaceful transition of power for the first time.
Mauritania’s history has been marred by repeated military coups, beginning with the first post-independence president, Mokhtar Ould Daddah. The most recent military coup took place in 2008, putting Ould Abdel Aziz at the helm of the country.